12.650.To Utilize a Warlock’s Ability

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 650
“To Utilize a Warlock’s Ability”

Monday after school, La-Iin head into her room, emptied her backpack, and levitated Bes-Isa to her side. Checking that Mit-Sun was still on the computer, she then head downstairs and shook Choungetsu’s leash. Choungetsu jumped up in excitement, but La-Iin did not leash him. Instead, she led him upstairs, then locked him in her closet. Choungetsu began to whimper, so she pressed her mini table against the closet and closed her door. Then she left the house.
“Wow. Amazing. I can’t believe you did that to the furball. I always thought he hit your Normal little kiddy sweet spot.”
“I don’t have something like that. I never had something like that!”
“Say what you will, but it does make me curious. Why did you do that? What do you gain from locking him in a closet?”
“I have my reasons. Bes-Isa, can you tell where we’re going today?”
“You’re heading to Sale-Dessu’s house.”
“Yes.”
“But why does that matter? Far be it from me to question you breaking that woman’s rules, but I still don’t understand. She knows you go to see him sometimes. I’m so confused…”
“What I’m doing today, it’s imperative that Mama thinks I’m doing something else. Thankfully, she’s looking into Vibrator and Makeshire play showings, so she’ll probably be busy. And her stupid boss always gives her papers to look through anyway.”
“That makes me more curious.”
“All will become obvious once we go inside. I just hope that the only ones who think it’s obvious is you and me.”
Noticing that Sale-Dessu’s door was locked, she knocked on the door. Sale-Dessu quickly peeked his head out.
“Hello, La-Iin. Come inside.”
Almost as soon as she walked inside, a confusing scent hit her nose. There was something enticing about the sour smell, but it also made her want to vomit. She couldn’t resist gagging.
“Ugh, what’s this smell?”
“Eul-Bok and I were working on something when you came in. Sorry about the smell.”
“Guh…” La-Iin shook her head.
“So how have you liked the research I gave you, La-Iin? Would I be right to guess that what interested you most was the part about–”
“I was interested by all of it.” La-Iin smirked. “In fact, speaking of things you did for me, there’s something else I want you to do for me today.”
A muted voice yelled something. Sale-Dessu head in the direction of the voice, and La-Iin followed him.
“Did I just hear who I thought I heard?” The voice was Eul-Bok’s, and he was glaring at Sale-Dessu as he churned liquid in a pot. La-Iin gagged. Up close, the smell wasn’t enticing in the slightest.
“Yeah, you did,” Bes-Isa said, her tone mocking. Eul-Bok glared. “Aw, come on, Father!”
“I could say the same to you, Eul-Bok. You know La-Iin and I are allies.”
“Yes. And in fact, I’ve come to ask my ally for something today.”
“Oh no…” Eul-Bok sighed. “Father, I know what you’re going to say. I just want you to know that it’s my opinion that you shouldn’t do it.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “What is it now, La-Iin?”
“I’m going to ask you about certain things and I want you to answer honestly and as much as you know.”
“Alright.”
“Seriously, what’s going on?”
“All will be revealed soon enough. Be patient and at least whisper!” La-Iin whispered. Sale-Dessu watched them with confusion.
“Do you still have the ability to make reality warping devices?”
“Y-yes? It’s been a while, but I could probably still do it. I’m not really looking into that right now, though.”
“Is there a way to mass-use potions?”
“I…it seems likely, but I’m not sure of how you would do that.”
“Is there such a thing as a sedation potion?”
“Yes?”
La-Iin nodded. “I need your help with some things. I don’t really mind about being able to mass-use potions, and the sedation one was more curiosity. But reality warping could be helpful.”
Sale-Dessu blinked.
“Why?”
“Why what?”
“Why do you want to reality warp?”
“I know how powerful reality warping can be. And I think it would help in a little project of mine.”
Sale-Dessu gave her an uncertain look.
“This is starting to get interesting.”
“Don’t do it, Father!”
“…” Sale-Dessu sighed. He beckoned to La-Iin, and walked away from Eul-Bok before his expression hardened.
“What?”
“I have a bad feeling about your intentions, La-Iin.”
“Why? Doesn’t it make sense for me to be curious in reality warping? I was a victim, after all.”
“You’re asking about mass use of potions, sedation potions and reality warping…it all seems nefarious.”
“So?”
‘This is bad.’ La-Iin tried to keep her voice from wavering. Sale-Dessu looked angry. ‘He’s caught on, hasn’t he?’
Sale-Dessu gave another sigh. “I don’t know what you’re planning, La-Iin, but I’m not going to help you with it. I’ll only help you with things that won’t harm the world.”
“What makes you think it will?”
“Reality warping is powerful. Its range is somewhat limited, but it can manipulate the minds of people and “destroy” the world around us.”
“Who said I wanted a reality warp like that? You randomized the world. You glitched it up. You didn’t destroy it.”
Sale-Dessu cringed. “Yes, that’s true, but it makes me uncomfortable, especially since you asked about sedation potions too. I’m sorry, La-Iin, but I can’t help you with this unless you have some sort of proof that it won’t be used for anything bad.”
La-Iin tried to keep her frustration under wraps, but she couldn’t keep her wings from flapping.
“That’s fine, ally. I don’t need your help anyway. You were helpful enough with the research you provided.”
“La-Iin–”
La-Iin scoffed. “It doesn’t matter. I thought you were the type to think that allies are supposed to trust each other. I guess I was stupid there.”
“La-Iin, please!”
“And apparently you don’t trust yourself if you think the reality warp would be violent.”
“When did I say that?”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. “It doesn’t matter. I got the help from you I need. Oh, except for one thing…”
La-Iin walked up close to Sale-Dessu, and before he could react, she bit into his arm. She wasn’t able to suck much blood before she backed off, noticing that he was reaching for his wand.
“I’ll be seeing you soon, Sale-Dessu.”
Bes-Isa in tow, she head to leave the Astineth house. On her way out, she spotted a black potion. She could remember what Sale-Dessu had said about such potions: that often Witches and Warlocks were wary of them.
Purely out of spite, she reached for the potion. ‘I don’t need Sale-Dessu anyway. Whoever said Warlocks are the only ones who can make potions? If I take a look at this, with his blood I’ll probably be able to make my own sedation potion. And maybe even my own reality warp…’

A few moments later, Eul-Bok came running up to Sale-Dessu.
“What went on here?”
“…I don’t know what La-Iin’s planning. I just got a bad feeling about it. She was asking about weird things…and then she sucked my blood…”
He showed Eul-Bok the bite wound and began to hiccup. “Father, are you okay? D-don’t cry, Father!”
“I…I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know what to believe. La-Iin’s just a little girl. I doubt she would do anything that would destroy the world or anything like that. But I know where her morals lie. And that scares me a bit…”
He sighed. “I guess I don’t trust people as much as I thought I did.”
“Father, you have all right to be suspicious of La-Iin. Even a little girl could do a lot with a reality warp device and mass-use sedation potions. And she bit you! Why should you trust her after that!? Maybe next time if you’re so worried about it you can talk with her about it.”
“I guess,” he sighed.
“Let’s clean this off. I know it isn’t that big, but it probably hurts. You aren’t feeling light-headed, are you?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you, Eul-Bok.”
‘Just what are you planning, La-Iin? Did I really make the right call just then?’

***

“Now will you explain what’s going on to me? I feel so left in the dark.”
“I was thinking over some things and I realized it would be helpful if I had certain things from Sale-Dessu. But I guess I made my intentions too obvious.”
“Well I think most people would be suspicious when you ask about sedation potions. And you sucked his blood right after that.”
“It doesn’t matter. He gave me what I need, so if he decides he wants nothing more to do with me that’s good enough. And it reminds me of something else I need to do.”
“Are you going to tell me why you need these things though?”
“I can give you a hint.”
“How disappointing.”
“I guess you don’t want that hint then.”
“Hey, when did I say that!?”
“Don’t worry, Bes-Isa. You’ll see soon enough.”

—–
“La-Iin…”
Baal-Mist screwed up his face. “I know I’ve heard that name before over the bug. But this conversation…sedation potions, reality warping…just who is she?”
Baal-Mist’s expression hardened. “This could be harder than I thought if this La-Iin girl is allied with him. And she hardly seems like the good type, or even neutral…my goal is Eir-Tyuj, but Sale-Dessu being her grandson, depending on who this La-Iin is it could be a problem there too…”
Baal-Mist groaned. “Just as I thought I had it, it slipped away from me…”

Advertisements

4.642.Warp of Reality

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 642
“Warp of Reality”

“Father, can I make a request?”
“What is it, Eul-Bok?”
“Can we go see Grepeta soon? It’s been a while since we last saw her, and I’ve been wanting to practice spells with her lately.”
“I don’t mind doing that. You’re right, it has been a while. And I’m sure you’d like to go someplace aside from this house.”
“I don’t hate our house! Although it is nice to get out every now-and-then.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “I don’t mind. I’ve managed to get some sleep after doing all that research for La-Iin, and the last few days have been lazy. So why not go someplace? Although can we do your check-up first?”
“Alright! I just hope Grepeta’s willing to see us.”
“I’m sure she will be, Eul-Bok. Even though Apeta can be rough sometimes, I know she’s a good Witch.”
‘Despite what so many other people would say,’ Sale-Dessu thought. He decided it would be better if he left that thought unvoiced.

***

Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok teleported into Eir-Tyuj’s house. They didn’t spot her right away, but were able to find her by the sound of coughing.
“Apeta, are you alright?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eir-Tyuj was sitting at a table, coughing somewhat violently. Eul-Bok was taken aback.
When her coughing died down, Eir-Tyuj took a breath.
“Excuse me, Sale-Dessu. What did you say?”
“Are you alright?”
“Alright enough as you can be after hacking up a lung,” she said. “But truly, I’m fine. Just a cough. The remnants of a sickness I had a few days before you two decided to invade.”
“Sorry, Grepeta. But how else are we supposed to get here?”
“I don’t mean ill by it, Eul-Bok. I’m well-aware of your situation, and of your father’s nervousness.”
“Apeta, please…”
“Anyway, I’m old! This stuff stays with me longer now that I’m of advanced age. For a Witch I’ve lived quite a time, and Witches already live longer than most others! I wonder if they would consider me a super-centenarian. I forget what age qualifies you for that.”
“Well, we’re glad you’re okay, Grepeta!”
“Are you really sure you’re okay? That coughing sounded rough…”
“I’m certain. I could be asking the same to you, Mr. Eyebags.”
Sale-Dessu touched his face. “There’s nothing wrong with me being worried about you, Apeta.” He hadn’t expected his tone to take an edge, but he didn’t notice until after he had already spoken. To his relief, Eir-Tyuj didn’t seem upset.
“Of course there isn’t. Now, you two–why are you here? Simply here to see ol’ Apeta, or, in your case, Grepeta?”
“We came at Eul-Bok’s request,” Sale-Dessu explained.
“I see. What made you want to come and visit me?”
“Remember how you and Father said I have potential?”
“Yes. I don’t forget the potential of my descendants, after all.”
“Well, I’ve been wanting to practice more with you! Practicing with Father is fine, but it’s nice to practice with you, too. I get a different kind of education with you.”
“I’m sure Sale-Dessu is more gentle. But what could you want to learn from me that Sale-Dessu could not teach you? My age has made it harder for me to pull off certain powers, and I’m sure Sale-Dessu knows most of mine.”
“Well, do you think it could be possible for me to try another unfinished spell?”
“Definitely not!” Sale-Dessu exclaimed.
“Absolutely not!” Eir-Tyuj exclaimed. “I understand your faith in your abilities, but such things are dangerous, Eul-Bok.”
Sale-Dessu was half-expecting Eul-Bok to look dejected, but instead he smiled. “I was expecting that response. Don’t worry, I haven’t been thinking about unfinished spells much recently. Although I did see a few interesting ones while Father was doing his research.”
“What research?” Eir-Tyuj asked.
“Research on a supposed Vampire ability,” Sale-Dessu said. “I learned some interesting things. Maybe I’ll tell you about them after you’re done with Eul-Bok.”
“Hm. So what did you really come here to learn?”
“Reality warping!” Sale-Dessu flinched. “Father knows how to reality warp, but I’ve heard you know how to control your warp better than he does.”
“You would have heard right, then. But what brings this on?”
“I was thinking, reality warping could be a good ability to have. Even though it can be dangerous, if you use it in the right way it could be helpful. But since Father isn’t all that good at controlling his, I thought I’d go to the master.”
Eir-Tyuj smiled, though Eul-Bok felt that it was a sad smile. “I’d be more than happy to teach you, but it has been ages since my last warp. Not only am I elderly, but I mostly gave up practicing the power after the retaliation I got from using it. If I had never experimented with that power, I could have avoided some tragedy, and so could have Sale-Dessu…”
Sale-Dessu lowered his head.
“Don’t feel sad, Grepeta! I think your only problem was that since you were still working on it, you didn’t keep it contained. And I know you can keep warps contained. So teach me how to reality warp, and how to keep it contained, too!”
“Are you sure about this, Eul-Bok?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Yes!”
Eir-Tyuj stood up. “There’s one other problem to my teaching you how to reality warp, however.”
“Hm?”
“Yours will be unstable at first, that is almost guaranteed, unless you are more of a prodigy than I believe. Sale-Dessu and I may not be able to detect that reality has been warped. It will be up to you to bring the warp to an end.”
“I understand, Grepeta. But I really think reality warping would be a helpful skill to have!”
“Well, if you’re that certain, than I can’t turn you down! But there’s a lot for you to learn before you try it. So prepare yourself!”
“I’m ready, Grepeta!”
“This all gives me a bad feeling…”
“Ah, don’t be so concerned, Sale-Dessu. I’ll make sure nothing goes out of control.”

Over the next few hours, Eul-Bok learned several things. He learned how much concentration it took to make a proper reality warp, and how to end it too. Eir-Tyuj mostly taught him necessary details, like the focus one needed for a proper warp or warning him about the damage it could cause to his psyche, but she also told him about less important details such as how he could make the reality look cartoonish, or how to create an activator for it as opposed to initiating it himself.
“I could have told him about making an activator,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I’m sure you could have, but I’m the one he asked to explain this,” Eir-Tyuj said playfully. “Well, then, now that we’ve gone over all that, how would you like me to show you how it’s done? Then you may try it for yourself.”
“Okay!”
Eir-Tyuj retrieved her wand and a small book. “For backup,” she told them. “It certainly has been a while since I last used this power…exercise caution, boys. I do know how to keep it from sucking you in, but it has been so long that I make no guarantees.”
“You’ll make an innocent one then, right, Apeta?” Sale-Dessu said.
“If that’s your request. Though I always was better with the more violent ones. Ha!”
She held out her wand, and Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok watched as the world around them began to change. Sale-Dessu was quick to notice that the area around him looked like an etheral version of the house he had initially lived in with his mother and grandmother. A wave of nostalgia washed over him.
“Wow, this looks like an actual location!”
“It is an actual location, in a way,” Eir-Tyuj panted. She seemed worn out. “I inspired it off of someplace I lived once. I was lazy this time.”
“Apeta…this is the house we lived in with Mamun.”
“I see someone noticed the inspiration,” Eir-Tyuj said with a smile. “But I also see another someone is eager to try using this power for himself.”
Eir-Tyuj began to return reality to normal. “Now you may try it. But remember what I told you. And as Sale-Dessu warned me, your reality should most likely be an innocent one. It is likely at least Sale-Dessu will be caught up in the reality.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, Father, you did tell me that when La-Iin hit your reality activator you didn’t notice anything changed until later,” Eul-Bok said. Sale-Dessu’s face flushed.
“I suppose you have a point…”
“What is this about some “La-Iin” hitting a reality activator?” Eir-Tyuj asked.
“It’s a long story, Apeta. And I’m sure that Eul-Bok is impatient.”
“I’d let you tell her, but I can’t stand La-Iin myself. Alright, I think I understand now. I’m going to do my best!”
“Don’t be nervous, boy. It can interfere with the reality.”
“Gotcha.”
“And after this is done, you have a story to tell me.”
“Agh…”
Eul-Bok took a deep breath, then began to focus on an image in his head. He grasped his wand and began to try and bring the image to life. With his eyes closed, Eul-Bok couldn’t tell if he was succeeding or not, and even though he had understood Eir-Tyuj’s words he still felt uncertain. Curious, he opened one eye, and gasped.
The scene around him had changed, but it was far from what he had imagined.
Instead, he, Sale-Dessu, and Eir-Tyuj were in a flower field. Sale-Dessu was picking flowers and handing them to Eir-Tyuj, who spoke in a high-pitched voice.
“Why, thank you, my grandson!”
She then burst into coughing. Eul-Bok was dumbfounded. He tried to move, but found he couldn’t. Not a single part of him would move, leaving him stuck in place watching his family play with flowers in the field.
To his relief, after what felt like two hours at the least, the reality wore off. Eir-Tyuj and Sale-Dessu closed their eyes, then opened them and blinked them.
“Wha?”
“Did…did you do a reality warp, Eul-Bok? I feel like I was just holding something.”
“I can remember a flower field, but only vaguely…”
“I didn’t do anything!” Eul-Bok said. “All of a sudden while I was working on my reality warp, everything changed to a flower field and you and Father started picking flowers and talking in high-pitched voices!”
“It sounds like you really went for an innocent reality warp,” Sale-Dessu chuckled.
“But–but Father, you don’t understand! I didn’t warp reality! All of a sudden a reality warp just happened! When it happened I couldn’t move! Aren’t you supposed to be able to move in your own warp?”
“That is true, but it can take a lot out of someone to perform a reality warp,” Eir-Tyuj explained. “And you are a V-Puppet. It’s possible that is why you were not able to move, because it took so much out of you and your species of origin cannot move without a power’s assistance.”
“But I wasn’t even imagining a flower field!”
Eir-Tyuj shook her head. “I know you believe you didn’t warp reality, Eul-Bok, but that is simply not possible. My house is under high defenses right now. No outside reality warp should be able to get in. It was your first reality warp. Perhaps it didn’t go as you expect, but that is to be expected, and at least it sounds like it went better than Maie-Jussa’s first.”
“Mamun warped reality?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Yes, but only once when she was young. It was a bit of a disaster, so she never tried again. But it wasn’t so much of a disaster that it warranted mentioning.”
“Seriously Grepeta, I didn’t do it!”
“He seems pretty convinced,” Sale-Dessu said. Eir-Tyuj shook her head. “Conviction or not, my house is under high security. Even with my sickness, I know that security has not wavered.”
“Grepeta!”
“Um–ah–why don’t we all calm down for now with some stories?” Sale-Dessu suggested. He could hear the desperation in Eul-Bok’s tone, and the agitation starting in Eir-Tyuj’s. ‘I really don’t want them to fight!’
“I’ll tell you an embarrassing one from when I was five. A–and didn’t you want to learn about La-Iin and the reality activator, Apeta?”
“I do.”
“Um…okay, Father,” Eul-Bok sighed. Sale-Dessu bit his lip.
‘Who do I believe? I don’t want to believe that another reality warp penetrated Apeta’s defenses, but at the same time Eul-Bok seems really convinced. And with his ability, I’m sure he would have been able to move around. What really happened just now?’
The whole incident left Sale-Dessu with a sick, uncertain feeling even as he worked to try and calm Eir-Tyuj and Eul-Bok.

—–
“Ciuthia…I’ll admit it, I’m scared.”
“Do not worry, Baal-Mist. I have told you all that you need to know. And if it will reassure you further, I know a way to counteract a reality warp.”
“You do?”
Ire-Salin nodded.
“That will be a helpful ability in the future…alright, then, here goes…”
Baal-Mist took a deep breath. Just pulling off a reality warp of his own sounded like a terrifying concept. But it was something he knew he had to try.
He focused on an image in his mind and set to work creating it in the way described by Ire-Salin, moving his wand around. He didn’t open his eyes until he had finished, and when he did he noticed he was surrounded by a vast flower field instead of a room in Ire-Salin’s house.
Ire-Salin was picking flowers and she handed them to Baal-Mist. “For you, my dearest,” she said.
Baal-Mist accepted the flowers and looked around. “I really did it…but it looks like Ciuthia is lost in the warp.”
“I will go and pick more,” she said cheerfully, then ran off to do just that.
Baal-Mist explored the reality warp for a while, but it seemed that he had pulled it off as simplistically as it had appeared in his mind, a vast flower field that went on for what seemed like eternity. Once he felt he had had enough of that–and of Ire-Salin’s strange behavior–he set to ending the reality warp.
Ire-Salin closed her eyes and dropped a glass sculpture. She gasped when it hit the ground.
“How was it?”
“It seemed to be successful, but it was simplistic. I suppose that’s good enough.”
“I see…” Ire-Salin’s cheeks flushed. “Well, perhaps we have had enough practicing for today. Are you still nervous, Baal-Mist?”
“A little less so, now,” he sighed. “As long as I have you helping me, I think I might be okay. But that reminds me, I would love to see one of your reality warps someday, Ciuthia, just to get a better idea of how to work mine.”
“If that is what you want, then I sheall give it to you at your request. Say the word, Baal-Mist.”
“Well, that can wait. I’m still a little nervous from the warp. Why don’t I fix that glass sculpture of yours for now?”
“It does not matter, but if you wish to do so, then do so, Baal-Mist.”

29.637.Research Results

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 637
“Research Results”

After La-Iin arrived home from school on Tuesday, she heard something tapping against her window.
“What’s that annoying noise?” Bes-Isa moaned. Curious herself, La-Iin peeked out the window. She opened it up once she noticed Eul-Bok, covered from head-to-toe in thick clothing, holding a wand out of a window.
“What do you want?” La-Iin called out.
“Not so loud!” He said, his voice hushed but not in a whisper. “Father wants you for something. He says it’s important. He asked me to tell you about it. He’s really exhausted.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she gasped.
“What is it?”
“Sale-Dessu has something for me.” She levitated Bes-Isa to her side. ‘Could it be…?’
She smiled to herself, a wicked smile.
“Someone’s looking evil.”
“I feel evil,” La-Iin said. She dashed down the stairs, flying only briefly to keep herself from falling when she tripped. She caught Choungetsu’s attention on her way down, and he barked at her.
“Quiet, Choungetsu!” She hissed. Choungetsu whimpered and cowered. She ignored him and dashed past the kitchen.
“What’s the hurry, La-Iin?” Mit-Sun asked. But La-Iin didn’t pay attention to her either. She continued onward until she was outside, and then until she was in front of the door to the Astineth house. She tried to open the door, and when it didn’t budge she started to bang wildly on it, catching the attention of one of her neighbors.
“Not so loud!” Eul-Bok hissed. La-Iin was surprised to see him answer the door. “Father’s really exhausted right now. Have a little decency!”
“Decency and I are not on speaking terms,” she said. “Where is Sale-Dessu?” She let herself in, and Eul-Bok closed the door behind them.
“He’s where you two always meet. He might be napping, so please be quiet.”
“Geez, something’s got you all riled up.”
“You don’t understand why yet, Bes-Isa. But depending on what happens here today, you might soon…”
La-Iin wasn’t subtle in her excitement, and Eul-Bok found himself cringing quite a few times as she crashed through his and Sale-Dessu’s house on her way to their normal meeting area. Any reservation she normally had while visiting them was obviously gone.
She plopped herself down once she reached the meeting area. Sale-Dessu was fast asleep, resting his head on the table.
“WAKE UP!”
“Ah!” Sale-Dessu lifted his head abruptly and began to pant wildly. His visible eye darted around until it landed on La-Iin.
“Oh….please don’t scare me like that!” He sounded angry.
“I told her you didn’t get much sleep, Father. She wouldn’t listen! She’s really excited about this.”
“Did you tell her what I called her here for?”
“No, but something tells me she guessed.”
“Have you finished your research into that thing I asked you about!?”
Sale-Dessu looked confused, though only briefly. “Y-yes. In fact, some of the things I found out near the end were startling. That and having to compile all I learned is why I’m not running on much sleep…” He yawned. “So please, let’s make this quick. I could use some rest.”
He pushed the files La-Iin’s way. “Here you are, the results of my research. I may have written things a little bit confusingly. I was tired when I finished this.”
“Confusingly isn’t much of a word, Father,” Eul-Bok whispered. Sale-Dessu sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m really exhausted…”
La-Iin began to check over the files. “It would be better if you did that at your own house. I’m really exhausted, La-Iin. Unless there’s something else you actually need–”
“Father, no! She’ll just ask you to do more pointless research!”
“Eul-Bok, please. Even if she asked that, I wouldn’t do it right now. And in any event, I just meant if she has any queries. Questions. …whatever word will make you understand.”
“This isn’t pointless,” La-Iin hissed. “Oh….ooh…”
“La-Iin?”
La-Iin’s mouth turned up once again in a wicked smirk. “Amazing, Sale-Dessu. I’ll have to read the rest of this at home, but it looks like my hope was right.”
“Mind letting me in on it? Right now I don’t understand why I was dragged out here!”
“Oh, you’ll learn soon enough. It’s the proper result.” La-Iin organized the files. “I’ll let you sleep for now, my ally. You deserve it after what you’ve done for me. This is amazing. Do you want to know just how amazing?”
“How amazing?” Sale-Dessu asked, feeling a little uncertain. ‘I’m glad she likes it. She seems really enamored. Did she want to know about this that badly? I suppose it does have to do with a part of her species.’
“Amazing enough that even someone evil like me is considering calling it justice!” She cackled. “Thank you for the help, Sale-Dessu. I might even say I owe you.”
“How big is that stuff that you of all people are talking about owing!?”
“For now, I’m just happy that you’re happy,” Sale-Dessu said. “But maybe I’ll ask Eul-Bok if there’s something he wants from you.”
La-Iin stared at Eul-Bok. Aside from her wicked smile, she looked as emotionless as always, and to Eul-Bok it felt incredibly unnerving at that moment.
“I have to read the rest of this over. Sleep well, Sale-Dessu…”
With those words, La-Iin left the Astineth house.
“She certainly seemed quite happy,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Just what was in that research that she reacted that way to it?”
“Well, there was a lot, and I have to admit some of what I found out was quite interesting. I’m not a genius so I don’t know if there were a few details I got wrong, but from what I saw…” Sale-Dessu’s expression changed to one of concern.
“Father?”
“I’m sorry, Eul-Bok, the fatigue is coming back to me…” He yawned. “Would you be willing to wait for your answer until morning?”
“I’m willing to wait, Father. But just how long do you plan on sleeping?”

***

Mit-Sun was used to receiving assignments from Eteibreit that necessitated her to look over or sort papers. She knew she spent much more time than she would like going over papers in the kitchen, and she also knew that on more than one occasion that had caused La-Iin to become mad at her.
So it greatly surprised her to spot La-Iin in the kitchen, looking over several papers.
“Where did you get all that from?”
“Sale-Dessu,” she said.
“What is it?”
“Research.”
“Research? I didn’t think you liked to do research all that much.”
“I love research when it comes to the things I like,” La-Iin said. “Heh heh heh…”
“Huh.”
“I’d really like to know what the research is too, La-Iin.”
“You have to let me finish going over it, Bes-Isa. It’s a lot to read, but as I go on it only becomes better and better. I’m loving this!”
“Just how great is this? You thanked Sale-Dessu, talked about owing him…and that is the most wicked smile I’ve seen on your face in a while. I love it, I just wish I knew what was causing it!”
“It’s these papers, obviously,” La-Iin said simply. “But now I know. Now that I have these, Hypotheory will be perfect.”
“Hypotheory? What the hell is that?”
“What’s a Hypotheory?”
La-Iin hissed. Both Mit-Sun and Bes-Isa assumed that meant they weren’t getting an answer, though in Bes-Isa’s case it didn’t stop her from pestering La-Iin, at least until La-Iin put her to sleep.
Frustrated, La-Iin carried the papers with her upstairs and began to read them in her room. Her smirk only grew wider.
‘Amazing. Simply amazing. Now that I have this, I can move on with Hypotheory!’

—–
Bes-Isa woke to the sight of La-Iin staring out her bedroom window. It was open and a cold breeze had blown into the bedroom, soaking into Bes-Isa’s fabric.
“What are you still doing up?”
“I can’t sleep. I keep feeling that something amazing is going to happen. No, I know something amazing is going to happen. I can feel it. I’m so happy right now…”
“Does this have to do with that research, or “Hypotheory” or whatever it was you were going on about?”
“That doesn’t matter right now, Bes-Isa. I’ll tell you about it later. …you know, there are a lot of reasons I do what I do. Many, many reasons, so many that even if you took one away I’d still want to do it.”
“Huh?”
“But one of the primary reasons is that it makes me happy.” La-Iin backed away from the window and glanced at Bes-Isa. “And if goody-goodies are allowed to do what makes them happy, then I see no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to, either.”

20.628.Friendship from a Year Ago

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 628
“Friendship from a Year Ago”

“You know who you haven’t seen in a while?”
“Who? And do I care?”
“You will. It seems like it’s been a while since you last saw Sale-Dessu.” La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Have you even seen him this month?”
“I ate the mincemeat pie I made for him myself.”
“Yes, I thought I remembered you asking him for something.”
La-Iin smirked. “That’s right, I did!”
“Are you talking to me?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Why would I ever talk to you, wench?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Talking to me or not, that reminds me. La-Iin brought up Sale-Dessu the other day. And even though we bonded, we never really kept up a friendship.”
“So?”
“Maybe I should go and see him.”
Hearing that made La-Iin almost toss herself out of her chair.
“What’s with the big reaction?”
“Nothing,” she said through grit teeth. “But who says Sale-Dessu will want to see you after all this time?”
“Well, it’s worth a try to see, isn’t it? I don’t dislike him.”
“It seems her Normal stupidity gene is kicking into full force.”
“You must have a little of it too if you hadn’t noticed it’s been active all this time. It’s the only part of her brain that’s been active, speaking of.”
“You shut up!”
Mit-Sun huffed. “Never mind.”
She walked out of the room. “Was that never mind for seeing Sale-Dessu, or never mind for dealing with me?”
“Perhaps yours isn’t active right now like I initially thought. Anyway. I hate to ask the same thing as that woman, but what was the big reaction for anyway? I’m aware we don’t want Sale-Dessu being dumbed down by an idiot, but I didn’t expect a reaction so strong.”
“Eul-Bok is autonomous. Mama doesn’t know this. And even if she doesn’t tell everyone all over Bledger about Eul-Bok, her seeing Eul-Bok might make Sale-Dessu more nervous than he already is. Which disadvantages me.”
“Is that so? How?”
“If he’s nervous, he might lock himself up and he’ll never complete the research I need,” she said. “And if he doesn’t, my plan–”
“What plan?”
“That’s not any of your business!”

***

When La-Iin took Choungetsu on a walk, Mit-Sun decided that it was a perfect time to visit Sale-Dessu.
‘Things have been going well for me recently. And he is a friend of La-Iin’s as well, at least it seems that way…I wonder if he’s been doing alright.’
Meanwhile, in the Astineth house, experiments were underway.
“So you’re telling me you don’t name your experiments?”
“I just use the names that they already have.”
“What if you’re coming up with something brand-new, though?”
“Do you mean like mixing a water-powered engine with an air conditioner or something like that?”
“Well, yeah, I guess, but–”
Eul-Bok was interrupted by a knock at the door. He groaned. “I bet I know who that is.”
Sale-Dessu answered the door, and immediately he recoiled in shock.
“Ca–Ca–Cahongyun elder? I mean, Mit-Sun?”
“Hi, Astineth. Er, Sale-Dessu. It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? …er, Sale-Dessu? Are you okay?”
“Ah, i-it’s just been a while since I last saw you, is all!”
‘Damn it!’ Sale-Dessu shot one quick glance back at Eul-Bok, who now looked startled. ‘She can’t come inside! La-Iin hasn’t told her about Eul-Bok being autonomous! …or has she? Either way, I can’t risk it! She wasn’t in on the plan.’
“O-oh, I’d love to, but I’m busy with an experiment right now,” he said quietly. “If I take my attention off of it it could explode…”
“Er, I guess you’d better get back to that, then!”
“D-don’t worry, even if it does explode it will only explode inside my…living room….okay, good-bye, Mit-Sun!”
He closed the door and sighed.
“What just happened, Father?”
“Cahongyun elder–er, Mit-Sun–she was at the door!”
“La-Iin’s mother?” Eul-Bok stared down at his hands. “I had a bad feeling about that.”
“But I was able to turn her away, thankfully. I mean no offense to La-Iin but unlike her, she’s at least somewhat reasonable. Now, let’s get back to our experiment…”
“You should mean offense to La-Iin.”
He turned back to the door. When he had first seen Mit-Sun she had been smiling and looked happy to see him.
‘We did bond, back when La-Iin drunk that potion, or no, after that…’ He could remember a conversation he had had with her about being a parent.
‘Maybe she misses me.’
“Father, what are you smiling like that for?”
“It’s just nice to be loved, Eul-Bok…”

“I’m so glad I took Choungetsu on a walk,” La-Iin said, tone deadpan, after she had returned home. “There was so much poop…if all that was in the house…”
Mit-Sun sighed.
“You didn’t have to deal with it, so why do you look upset?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m not really upset, La-Iin. Just thinking.”
“Your face gives away more than mine does.”
“Even if that’s the case I’m sure my face gives away less than you being super-obvious.”
“What does that mean?”
“Normal stupidity gene.”
Mit-Sun glared at Bes-Isa. “You were created to be a Normal, you….oh, forget it.”
“I’m a V-Puppet though. Not a Normal. Gotcha.”
“So ridiculous…”
A knock sounded at the door. “Huh?”
“I don’t remember inviting anyone over,” Mit-Sun said. “La-Iin, did you invite someone over?”
“As much as I’d like to, no.”
“Hm…” She walked over to the door and opened it. Nobody was standing there, not at first–Sale-Dessu peeked his head in moments later.
“Hello, Mit-Sun.”
“Hello,” she said. “I thought you were busy with an exploding experiment?”
“Sale-Dessu?” La-Iin called. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I was thinking after I finished the spell, I might visit you. You seemed like you had something to say to me before you left earlier. And it didn’t explode, so don’t worry.”
“So you did visit him,” La-Iin said, her tone accusatory. Mit-Sun rolled her eyes.
“Not really. Actually, it’s just been a while since I last saw you. I know we were never really close, but I was just thinking back on it.”
“I see….well, I shouldn’t stay too long. Eul-Bok will be lonely without me. But I wanted to share a little something with you first.”
He handed her a box. “What is this?”
“La-Iin, why are you glaring at me like that?”
“You’re my ally, not Mama’s.”
“What I gave her just now has nothing to do with being an ally,” Sale-Dessu said, his tone strangely playful. Now even more curious, Mit-Sun pried open the box.
Out from it came a bright burst of colorful lights that changed the color of everything it exploded around. La-Iin was quick to notice that once it died down, Sale-Dessu was almost entirely violet, from his skin to his clothes and his eyes, except for his hair which had turned a dark silver. She was also quick to notice that her hands were now the same green that Sale-Dessu usually was. She recoiled.
Sale-Dessu began to laugh. “You two always were the most interesting for my experiments to affect,” he said between giggles. “I’m sorry if I ever inconvenienced you with them.”
Mit-Sun didn’t respond. She just seemed to be trying to hold back a giggle.
Sale-Dessu remained at the door a while longer, still laughing hard, and Mit-Sun stayed put as well, suppressing giggles.
La-Iin, on the other hand, was horrified. When she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror, she realized that her color scheme was now that of Sale-Dessu’s.

—–
Sale-Dessu had left not long after he stopped laughing, but before that, he gave them some instructions.
“That “Colorburst Palette Swap”….” His cheeks flushed red. “That name was Eul-Bok’s idea. Anyway, it naturally wears off after about forty-five hours. Your colors will start reverting at about thirty-two hours, and after forty-five they’ll be almost back to normal. But if you really want it to revert early, you’ll have to take a bath in hot water for about two hours.”
“This is true evil…perhaps I should consider it for the future.”
“Thanks, Sale-Dessu. I’m sure La-Iin would like to go back to her normal colors now.”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “Alright, then, I’ll be seeing you two.”
“Oh, wait, Sale-Dessu! One thing I wanted to ask you!”
“Huh?”
“How’s Eul-Bok doing?”
It took Sale-Dessu’s all not to break out into a cold sweat. “Er…better than ever, thanks for asking. Well, see you!”

“Father! You used Colorburst Palette Swap on yourself!?”
“It was an accident. But don’t worry, it’ll wear off soon enough.”
“If by soon enough you mean forty-five hours…”

24.601.Manifestation of V-Puppetry

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 601
“Manifestation of V-Puppetry”

“Hey Father, I wanted to ask you about something.”
“What is it, Eul-Bok?”
“You said you couldn’t use V-Puppetry when you were younger, right?”
“Yes…when I was little, I did try, but I could never pull it off. So I gave up.”
“Yeah, that made me curious.” Eul-Bok sat down. “You said things like you think your V-Puppetry manifested out of sheer willpower. But there’s something I don’t understand. If you thought you couldn’t use V-Puppetry at all, why try and bring me to life? I really don’t get that.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Well, if you’re willing to listen to me ramble for a little bit, I might be able to explain why I brought you to life.”
“Really?”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “I never really talked about the early phases of my plan with you because I didn’t think I would need to. But if you want to know about it, then I’ll tell you all you need to know.”

***

Sale-Dessu pointed his wand at a pot of water. He concentrated and tried to make the water boil. A few bubbles rose, but only after a long while, and the water never boiled–when Sale-Dessu stuck his finger into it, he realized it wasn’t even warm.
‘Damn it…I really am distracted.’
Since his prior reality-warping experiment, Sale-Dessu had found that the feelings he thought he’d buried long ago were resurfacing. He always tried his hardest to deny any loneliness he felt, but it seemed like now all the loneliness he had pushed away was coming back to him in a flood, and he was miserable.
‘La-Iin has her mother, and she has her V-Puppet. She has people who love her…argh, this is stupid. I told myself that I don’t need anyone else, and that’s the way it’s been for many years now. I can’t change that so suddenly. Besides, even if I wanted someone to alleviate my loneliness, who would I have? I certainly can’t just go and ask La-Iin if she would like to come over…’
He thought back on Bes-Isa. ‘If I had the power of V-Puppetry, I could bring to life a child. But that’s selfish. I know I would follow what Apeta told me, I would take as much care of them as possible, but to bring one to life just to alleviate my loneliness? They wouldn’t even be able to move around without my assistance.’
He shook his head. ‘I can’t do that anyway. For now I should focus on my concentration issues…’

But as the days passed, concentration became harder for Sale-Dessu. He couldn’t seem to get any of his spells to work. Frustrated, he retreated into his book room to study. ‘Maybe if I brush up on the basics, I’ll be able to focus again. I’ve never had trouble keeping myself embroiled in a book.’ He chuckled at an old memory of Maie-Jussa telling him that dinner had been done for twenty minutes already.
He started from the top and went from there. It worked, to a degree. He was able to keep himself focusing on the book, and even managed to clear a few within a day.
The next day, however, one of the books he pulled was on the subject of V-Puppetry, and he sighed. ‘I might as well read it…’
The book dealt with all sorts of facts about V-Puppetry, its manifestation, and whether or not there were differences in the way certain species could use them. It had pictures of all sorts of V-Puppets, from cloth to clay to even metal V-Puppets. Sale-Dessu cringed at pages about V-Puppet abuse and was disturbed by pages on the morality of a person becoming romantically involved with a V-Puppet.
As he read through the book, he managed to put aside his sadness at the fact that he couldn’t use V-Puppetry. At least he was for most of the book, until a particular section of it caught his attention.
‘Autonomy in V-Puppets…’ It was a subject he had never really looked much into, considering his lack of power in that field. But its theories sounded appealing to him. A V-Puppet being able to move on their own like any person could and being able to do things of their own volition. The idea was wonderful, but he noticed that it was still incomplete. The book stated it could even be impossible.
But he could already imagine: someone bringing their doll to life and instead of them being confined to that person’s side, they were able to walk around with that person. It was such a fascinating idea, such a wonderful idea that Sale-Dessu couldn’t resist the urge to want to try it.
‘But I can’t use V-Puppetry. How would I be able to do something like that if I can’t even bring to life the person I need?’
Sale-Dessu narrowed his eyes at the book. ‘There has to be something in here that has the answer I need. I would love to try this…’

Even despite the apparent futility of doing so, Sale-Dessu found himself hours later sewing a doll. He had made the fabrics and materials from stray objects lying around the house. His handiwork wasn’t all that good, but as far as he was concerned the doll only needed to be able to hold together.
‘This is all pointless! I can’t even use V-Puppetry, and V-Puppet autonomy might be impossible.’ Yet he couldn’t stop himself from hoping, couldn’t stop himself from putting together the doll. V-Puppetry was always one power he wanted to be able to use. He wanted to bring his own ‘child’ to life. And most who brought a child into the world, he knew, would want that child to have their autonomy.
If that was possible, Sale-Dessu wanted it. Badly. He was jealous of La-Iin’s family. He missed his own family. If there was any remnant, any last shred of the power of V-Puppetry inside of him, then he wanted to activate it and bring to life his child.
Once the doll was finished, however, he began to feel nervous.
‘What if it really doesn’t work? Have I wasted my time?’
All these uncertain thoughts were swirling around in his head, and yet, Sale-Dessu found himself more focused on what he was about to do. Among the uncertain thoughts were imaginations and daydreams of what life would be like if he actually succeeded in bringing the doll to life. If he succeeded in bringing them autonomy. He could see the little doll he had just finished running around the house and asking him questions about his experiments.
He could see this child quite clearly in his mind’s eye. ‘Eul-Bok….’
Sale-Dessu concentrated his all into making the hand motions, and no amount of uncertain thoughts stopped him there. He continued on, hoping to hear a voice at any time. After a while, he opened his eyes. He sighed in disappointment. The V-Puppet was not responding.
‘Wait a second…’
But even though it was not responding, it was quite clear that it was levitating.
‘Did–did I do something wrong!?’
“Um…hello there,” he said cautiously. ‘I’ll feel so stupid if I’ve failed at this point!’ “Can you hear me? Can you say “yes”? If you can hear me, say “yes”, please.”
No response.
“Um–” Suddenly the uncertainty was swamping him. “I–I am your father, Astineth Sale-Dessu. If you heard that, please say yes…”
“Fa…ther?”
Sale-Dessu gasped in surprise. “You are alive….!”
He pulled the doll close. “Oh, I’m so happy! I–I didn’t think you would make it! My precious Eul-Bok…”
Eul-Bok began to make choking noises, so Sale-Dessu let go of him. “I need to give you some knowledge so we can talk more! After all, I have big plans for your future, but I’m going to need to be able to communicate with you if we’re going to carry them through.”
“Communi….cate?”
“Yes. You’re getting the hang of it, slowly,” he said with a smile. “I…I can’t believe this. I brought a child to life…”
He was so overjoyed and stunned, he felt ready to overload, but taking the cues from how he had felt just moments earlier, he ran off with Eul-Bok to his book room.

—–
“So that’s what happened?”
“Yes.”
“So you really did get it out of sheer willpower!?”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “No, probably not. It’s possible the power was dormant inside of me all along, but I like to think that what happened was that it just came along later for me.”
“Huh?”
“Remember, some people get their powers really young, like La-Iin did. So who’s to say that I just didn’t get my power later? After all, when I was trying to make a V-Puppet when I was little, I was younger than La-Iin is now. It’s possible it hadn’t developed yet!”
“Really?”
“I’m pretty sure. But yes, it was a selfish reason I brought you to life, Eul-Bok. I hope you’re not upset…”
“I don’t care. I’m happy to be alive! It doesn’t bother me one bit. Besides, don’t normal people bring babies into the world for selfish reasons sometimes?”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.”
“So I don’t mind at all. But wow, that’s pretty cool that you could bring me to life at all! Hey, do you think you’ll ever make me a sibling?”
Sale-Dessu paled. “Well…we’ll see about that one, okay? I’d definitely have to plan more for a sibling than I did for you!”

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!”

19.596.To Where Do You Head?

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 596
“To Where Do You Head?”

Eul-Bok sighed as he tidied around the house. “Father may be good at keeping the house clean, but he really doesn’t pay attention to when things gather dust, does he?”
“…not that a particular color of liquid can tell you whether you have a good potion or a bad potion, but typically people are dubious of black potions…oh, well, I actually meant we Witches and Warlocks are, I wouldn’t know about the general population…”
“Hm?” Curious, Eul-Bok followed Sale-Dessu’s voice. “What’s up, Father? Are you talking to yourself?”
“Why would I do that, Eul-Bok?” When Sale-Dessu turned to face him, he caught sight of the real reason he had heard his voice–La-Iin, sitting across from Sale-Dessu, with Bes-Isa sitting on the table propped up by a book stand.
“You didn’t hear them come in?”
“No.” Eul-Bok narrowed his eyes. “Why must you two come here almost every single month!?”
“Because Sale-Dessu is our ally and we exchange information.”
“Do we?”
“I’m not sure I’d call that an exchange, seeing how one-sided it is,” Eul-Bok scoffed.
“Eul-Bok, be nice to them. I wouldn’t have let them in if I wanted them to go away.”
Eul-Bok sighed. “There’s no arguing with you on this subject…” He sat down next to him. “You do realize you haven’t given Father nearly enough time to finish looking into that thing you wanted from him, right?”
“Our trip here today was for different purposes.”
“Yes, she was asking me about potions,” Sale-Dessu said with a smile. “I was telling her about potions, but I somehow got sidetracked onto Warlocks not trusting black-colored potions. But it isn’t just black-colored potions. Grey potions aren’t usually trusted either.”
“Hm.”
“Didn’t you already talk to them about potions?”
“Some things need repeating. Besides, he didn’t tell me everything.”
“Potions do have a lot of unique properties, so there’s a lot to go over. And some aren’t made perfectly. They can backfire even if the Warlock’s intentions were good. La-Iin, do you remember that potion I brought back with me last year?”
“Huh?”
“The one I had to dilute?”
“Certainly you remember near-threatening him for a sip of that potion.”
“Oh. I don’t really remember what happened after that, though…”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Where did you get that potion, anyway?”
A curious expression crossed Sale-Dessu’s face. “…on my way back home…”
“What?”
La-Iin’s forehead wrinkled. “I don’t get it. You don’t seem like you like going outside, but you used to go places. If you don’t like leaving, then why did you?”
“I had…things I needed to do.”
“Things?”
“La-Iin, I know we’re allies, but you don’t tell me everything about what you do, do you?”
“…” La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“Please don’t look at me like that…I don’t want to tell you everything about what I do. I might not have much experience with people, but I know most people don’t go around telling their allies all of what they do every day.”
“But when you got that potion, you made me watch Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok shuddered. “I had almost forgotten those horrible days…”
“Speaking of…! Maybe you can convince her, Eul-Bok. Something tells me she won’t listen to me no matter how much I protest.”
“Why don’t you just threaten her right back, then?”
“I couldn’t do that!”
“I’d love to, Father, but I don’t have any rebuttal. Also, you weren’t all that clear on what you were doing when you talked to me about it, either.”
“That’s strange. I’d at least think that if he didn’t want to tell us, he would tell you. He trusts you so much, after all.”
A cocky smile crossed Eul-Bok’s lips and he puffed his chest out slightly. “It does seem rather suspicious that you want to keep it a secret so badly…from what I’ve seen you’re not good at hiding these sorts of things. After all, me and La-Iin might not know what happened to you when you were a kid, but we have a good idea that it wasn’t pleasant.”
“Please stop…”
“So if you’re hiding this, what sort of dark secret is behind it?”
“Dark secret…” La-Iin grinned. “Sale-Dessu, you don’t need to hide dark secrets from me. Hiding your evil from your ally is stupid. I’m evil, after all. You just need to say the word and I promise I won’t tell anyone you killed anybody. And I don’t like to make promises.”
“What!?”
“You really think poorly of Father, don’t you!?”
“On the contrary, Eul-Bok. I may have mixed feelings about murder, but that’s only because I think keeping people alive to suffer is much worse, and therefore, preferable.”
“And also because she has the sappiness of a half-Normal.”
La-Iin flicked Bes-Isa’s forehead.
“You’re sick, you know that!? Father, why do you associate yourself with someone like her!?”
Sale-Dessu’s head was lowered. Both La-Iin and Eul-Bok stared at him in confusion as he began to mumble to himself.
“What?”
“Father, are you okay?”
“I think he’s officially lost it. Hey, maybe this is the part where we pushed him so much to his breaking point that he’ll come out and spill everything!”
“Really!?”
“If you two did that to him, I…I….I’m not going to be held responsible for what I do to you in return!” Eul-Bok’s tone was thick with rage.
“Please, Eul-Bok, don’t threaten them.” Sale-Dessu sighed and faced them again. “Fine. I’ll tell you where I went off to. It wasn’t anything like what La-Iin said…I would never go away and kill someone. That’s awful.”
“Damn. It would have been excellent blackmail, now that I think about it.”
The look Sale-Dessu gave Bes-Isa in response terrified her. “I just didn’t want to explain it because I feel it will require more explanation than just saying ‘I went here’….”
“What do you mean, Father?”
“La-Iin’s right, I have gone out despite my reluctance to do so. I don’t like doing it–you can ask Eul-Bok, it makes me very uncomfortable…but I’ve done it before. Once I had planned on taking Eul-Bok with me to various places that specialized in V-Puppets to see if I could learn more about them. When I brought Eul-Bok to life, I didn’t know as much as V-Puppets as I should have.”
“But what about when you got the potion? I don’t even think La-Iin remembers what you’re talking about. That all happened so close to Magica Cavintus.”
“Huh?”
“See?”
“I–I know. I was just trying to prepare myself…I was looking for something when I went out that time.”
“And what would that be?”
“Something important to me…a relic from my past, you could say. Some things happened in the area I went to, so I was unable to use my powers and I had to be careful about even navigating that place…but in the end, the trip was worth it, at least for me.”
“That doesn’t explain anything.”
“This is why I didn’t want to tell you about it,” he groaned. “You won’t be happy unless I tell you exactly what it was I was looking for. It’s a part of my past. If I brought it up to you, I would have to go into that, too.”
“For someone who hangs as open as a book you’re sure tight-lipped on the exact details of your past.”
“You’d understand, if you knew…” He shook his head. “Anyway, the place is far away and it wasn’t feasible to just teleport there. That’s why it took me so long, and I went there to see something from my past. That’s all.”
“We’ll never get to hear about your past, will we?”
“It’s best if you don’t. Really. Aside from the fact that I don’t want to tell you, it’s better off if you don’t know…a-anyway, why don’t we get back to talking about potions instead?”
“You two bother Father too much. He’s doing his best to move past all that stuff, and all you two do is dredge up painful memories!”
“Eul-Bok, please.”
“I can’t stand it though, Father! It’s not fair, the way they’re treating you!”
“You might say that, but what wouldn’t be fair is what I would do to you if I had bodily autonomy.”
“Please, Bes-Isa,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Let’s just go back to potions…there are actually some black-colored potions that aren’t harmful, but a lot of them were used for “curses” in the past.”
“Why did you say curses like that?”
“There really isn’t anything exactly like the curses you hear about in books. It’s more like an….infection.”
Sale-Dessu began to look dejected after those words. Eul-Bok glared at La-Iin and Bes-Isa. Neither of their expressions made it possible for him to tell what they thought about his reaction, but to him it didn’t matter.
‘Father, somehow I have to get you to realize that having La-Iin and Bes-Isa as your allies is a bad thing. All they do is bring you pain…’

—–
“Um, Father…”
“Yes, what is it, Eul-Bok? Do you want to try eating again today?”
“No, I’d rather not, really. I just wanted to ask you something.”
“What’s that?”
“Well…I feel like kind of a hypocrite asking this, but I don’t really remember what you were going there to see….what was it again?”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “It’s fine. You know already some of what happened, anyway. I went there to see my Mamun. Or if you prefer to hear it this way, your Apeta.”
“O–oh….”
“Unfortunately, me and Apeta couldn’t take her remains with us, but perhaps that’s for the better, considering what happened afterwards. We would have lost her. She’s safer back there, where they don’t allow powers. When I went, they were even going so far as to give everyone power suppressants.”
“Why don’t they allow powers?”
“In part due to my Mamun’s murder. The other part….well, I don’t know the other part. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make you think about something so painful.”
“I wish I could have brought you with me that time, but they’re very staunch on the rules,” he sighed. “Maybe someday now, if we can disguise you well enough…”
Sale-Dessu turned back to his soup. “Oh, I burned it…”
“I’m really sorry, Father.”
“Don’t be. It’s in the past now. And the past is something I’m still trying to leave behind…but I’m trying, and that’s what important.”

6.583.Eul-Bok’s Potential

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 583
“Eul-Bok’s Potential”

Baal-Mist watched Eir-Tyuj’s house closely. A sudden flash of light illuminated the windows. He smirked.

Sale-Dessu opened his eyes. He was in Eir-Tyuj’s house. Eir-Tyuj herself was sitting nearby, and she seemed a bit startled by his sudden appearance.
“Why hello, Sale-Dessu,” she said. “Hello to you too, Eul-Bok.”
“Hello, Grepeta! You sound awfully cheerful today.”
“Ah, old age can do that to ya. Don’t go thinking I’ve lost my vigor, though, or you’ll be sorely disappointed!” She let out a cackle. “What brings you here today?”
“Yeah Father, you never did tell me why we were coming here.”
“It’s something I’d like to discuss with Apeta alone,” he said. “Apeta, would you mind if Eul-Bok went off to do something else while we speak?”
“Why?”
“I have my reasons.”
Eir-Tyuj huffed. “Well, I know your boy has more sense than to go around messing things up. Go on and do what you will, Eul-Bok. We’ll call you back later.”
“How come I can’t be involved in this discussion?” He huffed.
“There’s a reason for it, Eul-Bok. Please, go off and do your own thing for now.”
“Listen to your father, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok pouted slightly, but soon head off, though Sale-Dessu could tell by his gait that he wasn’t happy.
“What is it you want to talk to me about? Your expression and tone tell me it’s serious, and considering you sent Eul-Bok away, I’m assuming it has something to do with him?”
“It does,” he said. “Apeta, both you and me know of Eul-Bok’s potential. He has the same innate potential other Warlocks have, and he seems to have a natural talent for these sorts of powers. But something’s concerning me. You and I are skilled in our powers too, but we struggled a bit, didn’t we?”
“I’ve always told you that I was one who had to work for her ability,” Eir-Tyuj said. “You likely could have been more skilled earlier on, had you not gone through the trauma you had. Eul-Bok having a natural talent for it does mean that he might be able to pull off more skilled spells earlier, especially if that’s what you’ve been teaching him.”
“But that’s the problem. Not everything he’s been able to do I’ve been teaching him. Apeta, have you ever heard of Subconscious Shift?”
“Yes, I have. There were plans to bring back the initial experiments when I was a young girl, but it was still deemed too intrusive to toy with. I would agree–such a power is really beyond what we should be using.” Eir-Tyuj scoffed. “Sale-Dessu, you’re not going to tell me Eul-Bok was able to pull off such a spell.”
“I have reason to believe that he was. I had a strange, rapidly changing dream recently, and I found Eul-Bok collapsed outside my bedroom door with a spellbook open to that page when I woke up. All the signs point to him having successfully completed the Subconscious Shift spell. I had never told him about this spell prior to him using it.”
Eir-Tyuj gave him an uncertain look. “Are you certain?”
“Apeta, would I lie to you? I already know how you can get when I do. Would I risk that?”
Eir-Tyuj sighed. “Fair enough. But if that is true, that really is beyond what I was expecting of him. I knew he was talented, that much is obvious, but that’s going above and beyond for such a young and inexperienced Warlock. Still, I may have a theory as to why he has this ability.”
“What’s that?”
Sale-Dessu gave Eir-Tyuj a curious look, but it soon became obvious it was not her who had spoken. Eul-Bok was standing a short distance away from them, watching intently.
“Weren’t you told to listen to your father?” Eir-Tyuj scolded. “Goodness.”
“How much did you hear, Eul-Bok?”
“I heard a little,” he admitted. “Well, actually, everything except the beginning of the conversation. Father, I can tell when you want to talk about me. No matter how hard you try, you’re not all that good at hiding your emotions.”
“I used to be good at that,” he sighed. “Becoming a father has made me softer…”
“That’s strange. It was fairly contrary with my husband and your father,” she said coyly. Sale-Dessu glared at her. “In any event, it was not your place to listen in.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. But I really want to know, you two think I’m really talented because I pulled off that spell?”
“Research on it was cancelled, so it counts as an incomplete spell. Performing an incomplete spell or finding your own is indicative of talent. …Apeta told me that, anyway.”
“And it’s certainly true.”
“Geez, you two are too nice.”
“We aren’t saying all this to be nice, Eul-Bok. After all, I don’t believe it’s because you were naturally blessed with such talent. I think there’s an explanation for it.”
“What’s that?”
“You, Eul-Bok, came into this world as the result of a power. You were reliant on a power to move around for a long time. You became autonomous because of powers. Well, putting aside your other exposures, you are a V-Puppet! V-Puppetry is a power. Owing your existence to power, that is likely the reason why you have such skill. Aside from being somewhat related to people such as Sale-Dessu and myself, of course.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Eul-Bok said. “If that’s the case, that’s pretty cool!”
“You have a troublemaker on your hands, Sale-Dessu,” Eir-Tyuj sighed. “In any event, of course you’ll still have to hone such power–you can’t just expect everything to work perfectly the first time. Even assuming you have such a talent for power thanks to the means of your birth, even those whose power is immense need to practice.”
“I know that.”
“And please, don’t try unfinished spells like that again,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Why not?”
“They still pose a risk,” Eir-Tyuj said. “And seeing as Sale-Dessu here has become far more nervous in the years I’ve been gone–”
“Apeta, please!”
“Don’t I know that,” Eul-Bok giggled. “But that is really cool. It has me wondering though, are you sure it’s ’cause I’m a V-Puppet and not just because of how Father gave me powers? He’s powerful, so couldn’t that be why I am, too?”
“It could be both. But remember, your case is currently one-of-a-kind, and your other case rare. Who knows? I do sincerely doubt that it’s just natural talent, however. There is a cause for this.”
Eul-Bok nodded.
“Perhaps you should teleport us back this time, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I guess I could try. Though the teleportation spell is so easy to trip up on!”
“It certainly is, isn’t it? But it’s one every Astineth should know.”
“Why’s that?”
“…” Sale-Dessu fell silent. “Oh.”
“Ah, it was meant to be humorous, Sale-Dessu.”
“Sorry, Apeta, I know. It just reminded me of those Witches and Warlocks who nearly found out where we lived. It still unsettles me.”
“Well, don’t worry about it! You haven’t had trouble with them in a while, have you? And with Eul-Bok on your side, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“She’s right, Father!”
Sale-Dessu cracked a small smile. “I suppose she is. Just as she is oftentimes…”
Still, Sale-Dessu couldn’t shake his unsettled feeling.

—–
“Baal-Mist, what did you call us here for?”
“No particular reason. Aside from sharing my message of hope with you all. I really do think we’ll have a breakthrough. We were just too hasty the first time we tried things. Timing is still everything, though. Too early and we risk sabotaging the mission; too late and we might not have a chance to do everything as intended. I need to plan things carefully, however…I do think things might be working in my favor.”
“What makes you say that?”
He smirked. “Oh, nothing in particular. Maybe wishful thinking. I suppose you could say I’ve been living in the past lately. Thinking on how much I want this goal to come true…”
“I honestly don’t understand you sometimes, Baal-Mist. You’re a handsome Warlock and your ability isn’t half bad. Why waste your time on this project?”
“True, it might seem useless to you. But to me it’s more than a mere ‘project’. I need closure. Without it, good looks and powers are useless to me. So quiet down and let me handle this. Trust in me. I give you my guarantee that now, I know what I’m doing.”

5.582.To See the Future–Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

“La-Iin? Are you doing anything right now? I want to head downtown soon so I can get a special spice for dinner tonight.”
La-Iin didn’t respond.
“La-Iin?”
‘Ai-Reia was a failure. That much I know. But I never thought of what would happen if some of my key players became failures, too….I wasn’t expecting her, but at least I got hints early on enough before she became too involved. And my children are speculation–besides, their betrayal probably won’t be all that bad, whatever it is if it happens. But what if I lose someone I really need?’
“La-Iin?”
“Mama?”
“What’s up with you now?”
“Ei-Tio’s visit yesterday has me thinking about something.”
“What’s that?”
La-Iin shook her head. “Nothing important.”
“It certainly sounds important.”
“Even if I wanted to tell you, Mama, I haven’t thought it through all the way yet. But it’s bothering me…”
Mit-Sun looked concerned. “Well, whenever you’re ready to go downtown, just tell me, but make sure to say something before it gets too late, otherwise I’ll come and get you myself.”
‘It’s fully possible. Just as Ei-Tio could potentially change, someone else I need could change too. What would I do if that happened? How could I handle losing some of my key players?’
She bit her lip. ‘I’m going to need to put some thought into this, no matter how painful it is.’

***

“La-Iin, I’ve forgiven a lot of what you’ve done. I’d have to in order to go along with the things you want me to, but I have to draw a line here!”
La-Iin stared down Shuu-Kena, whose eyes were brimming with tears. “I thought you didn’t like your family.”
“We might not get along, but they are my family nonetheless,” she said, standing her ground. “I’m not going to watch you make them into shells of their former selves!”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So what do you want me to do with them!? You realize they were opposing me, right? I had to get rid of them somehow!”
“You couldn’t have just jailed them, though? Is that beyond the realm of what you can do? Besides, what you said to me, it proves something. You’re no better than my family. I don’t know why I thought you were different. I’m so stupid.”
“Shuu-Kena.”
“Go away, La-Iin. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a matter of wanting to or not wanting to. You realize you are my scout, yes? There are no options for you here. If you want so badly to oppose me, then you are welcome to join your family in the torture chamber.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened in horror. “I–I–”
“You are a selfish person too, Shuu-Kena. Don’t think you’re better than me.”
“You really are no different from my family…”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “I give you one day to prove yourself. If by tomorrow you’re still acting this way, or if you have done anything to deliberately betray me, you’re going to join your family. Consider yourself lucky I’m giving you this leniency at all. And who knows, I might just take it away, good behavior or no…”

“Big sister…no, La-Iin….when we were little kids, I thought you were gonna do things differently.”
“What, did you think they were empty words? Did you think that ruling the world meant that I would make everyone happy? What did you think it was, Ei-Tio?”
“…different than this. I don’t know.” She lowered her head. “You know, big sister, I was flying over the cages yesterday, just stretching my wings. And I saw two familiar people shoved into the same cage.”
“Oh?”
“My Darseen and Floma,” she said bitterly. “I realized something, big sister. You’re different than how I knew you to be. I know you’re evil. I never cared about that, not at all. I knew you wanted to rule the world. And I know, maybe I thought a little more idealistically than I should have, but can you blame me? I’m still technically a kid Vampire! I don’t understand this, La-Iin. I don’t.”
“Then I’ll explain. I’ve wanted to rule the world since I was little. It’s the ultimate power. The best expression of one’s evil. I can do what I want when I’m in charge of the world, like I am now. But ruling the world is a precarious position. Even with San-Kyung and my other allies at my side, we’re a small group compared to the billions of people out there in the world. So I need to be careful as I spread my dominion.”
“What?”
“Does it still not make any sense?”
Ei-Tio shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. I’m sorry, big sister, but I can’t do this anymore. I love helping you, and I don’t hate you. But there’s something different about you. It feels like you care about yourself above everyone else. And I’m sure you always have, but this just isn’t right. It feels like this power has made you hate almost everyone else. You love your Mama, right? Then why is she rotting away in a cage?”
“I have my reasons.”
“And you can never give explanations to me. Not even your “sister” gets to hear it. Does San-Kyung? Or is he censored from this too?”
“Why are you questioning this now, Ei-Tio?”
Ei-Tio spread her wings. “I just needed to know if my decision was the right one. I’m sorry, big sister. I’m not going to oppose you. I’m not going to try and kill you, and I’m not going to hate you. But I can’t stay here like this. I’m going to go someplace else, someplace far away where life is happier and not horrible like this…someplace where even the most evil of people actually care about other people.”
She took off before La-Iin could get a word in edgewise. La-Iin was tempted to fly after her, but after Shuu-Kena’s opposition, she was starting to feel dejected.

“Mit-Sun…”
“She hasn’t been in the best of conditions lately. I’m dubious as to how much longer she’ll survive.”
“Do you even care that your own mother is dying?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Do you know who else is dying? San-Kyung. Maybe not as quickly as Mama, but I’m going to lose him soon too. I’ll be sad if Mama dies, but it isn’t as if we’ve talked much lately anyway.”
Asul-Zenza shook his head. “This is ridiculous. I understand the three of us were never exactly a proper family, but not a one of us hated each other. Not even I and Mit-Sun hated each other. Has this changed in recent years, La-Iin?”
“I was getting back at Mama for what she did to me as a child. That’s all.”
“I saw you lots once you hit your sixth years, La-Iin. If Mit-Sun was doing something so drastic that it warranted years-long torture, I would have known. But as it stands her worst offense is that she was not quite ready for parenting. For someone in that situation, I would say she’s done quite well.”
“You and I think differently then, Dami. What, are you going to start taking her side now? I thought you liked me better than you liked her.”
“I do, that’s true, but…watching her waste away like this, it’s just too painful. And watching you turn into what you’ve become…nobody ever thought otherwise on the subject of your evil, La-Iin. But I don’t think any of us expected this level of coldness.”
“Then you were expecting me to be friendly when I have to rule the world? How deluded are you?”
Asul-Zenza flinched. “That’s it. I’m sorry, La-Iin, but I can’t put up with this. I don’t want to oppose you, but you’re not giving me much of an option.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So that’s how it will be, is it?”
“There’s still a chance to make up on this, of course,” he said quickly. “And besides, when I said oppose, I never meant with an army at my side. I simply met fighting you until you would help Mit-Sun–”
“One thing you should have learned from me, Dami–”
She walked over to him and gripped his shoulders tight.
“Don’t reveal your plans. That’s stupid.”
‘Not Dami. You can’t be considering this.’ La-Iin was trying her hardest not to show weakness, but it was difficult when the person opposing her was Asul-Zenza. She felt she couldn’t prepare to deal with his betrayal, but when she saw the look in his eyes, she had no doubt in her mind that he was serious.
“Sorry, Dami. No, I don’t owe you an apology. You’re the betrayar, after all.”
Her reluctance to act was strong, but La-Iin ignored it and bit into her arm. Behind Asul-Zenza, La-Iin caught sight of Mit-Sun, weakly staring up at her. Just from the look on her face, La-Iin felt that she would soon have to deal with Mit-Sun as well.

“Hello, La-Iin. It’s good you woke me up for the first time in I’m not sure how long, because we need to talk.”
“Indeed we do. A lot has happened between the last time we talked and this time…”
“When I said ‘we need to talk’, I more meant that I need to talk to you about a certain subject matter.”
La-Iin levitated Bes-Isa close to her. “What?”
“Well, it HAS been years. I know from what you’ve told me that you’re working Sale-Dessu quite hard. And I know from what you’ve shown me that the majority of the population is inside cages, and those who aren’t are not exactly people I have to worry about.”
“What are you getting at?”
“I want to be made autonomous, La-Iin. I think it’s been long enough. If you’ve really been working Sale-Dessu as hard as you make it sound, and after all those years he took care of Eul-Bok I’m sure that making me autonomous would be no trouble for him. Then I can help you more directly, that and actually have the freedom to walk around. In your world I don’t need to worry about being spotted because nobody can do anything about me.”
“I can’t grant that, Bes-Isa.”
“I should’ve known. I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I did anyway. Years passing hasn’t changed that certain side of you.”
“It has nothing to do with not changing, Bes-Isa. It has to do with the fact that betrayal has been common in my dominion lately. Thankfully nothing large enough to pose a threat to my rule over the world, but it’s concerning. And especially with what you’ve just said to me, I have no reason to believe that you wouldn’t betray me if I made a move you disliked. You are as evil as I am, after all.”
“I haven’t even done anything to you! Do you just WANT me to betray you?”
“No.” La-Iin tried to imagine a future in which Bes-Isa gained the autonomy she so wanted. She could imagine someone, their suppressants having worn off just the right amount, lashing out at her. She could imagine something going horribly wrong and her turning her back on her.
Especially with how Bes-Isa could be sometimes, it was a risk she couldn’t take.
“La-Iin!? I’ve been by your side nearly your whole life and yet that still isn’t enough to have your trust!?”
“It’s hard to give trust when you’re the ruler of the world, Bes-Isa. You’d understand if you were in my position.” She lifted up her hand. “I can’t take any risks right now, Bes-Isa. I’m sure you understand.”
She levitated Bes-Isa over to a small case and closed it. Bes-Isa had yelled something on her way there, but La-Iin couldn’t understand it, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

La-Iin walked over to Sale-Dessu’s chamber and opened the door.
“Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t respond.
“Sale-Dessu! To attention!”
Sale-Dessu glared at her.
“Sale-Dessu! Why aren’t you saying anything!?”
“For years now I’ve been at your beck and call. And I didn’t mind, La-Iin.” His voice was barely a whisper; La-Iin could barely hear it even as she walked closer to him. “I always loved studying powers and practicing. And not everything you used of mine was for ruling the world, I appreciated that. But you took Eul-Bok away from me for no reason other than Bes-Isa didn’t like him. And only now I’ve started to realize how stupid I’ve been all these years…”
“What are you talking about?”
Sale-Dessu lifted up his wand and fired off at her. La-Iin dodged. Sale-Dessu’s expression was one of rage. Stuck in a claustrophobic room with an angry Warlock, La-IIn felt that if it wasn’t for one key element, she would be terrifed for her life, and that was the reluctance she sensed in Sale-Dessu’s moves. He was slightly lethargic and did not choose spells that would badly harm her. Still, as it went on his spells became ones intended to trap her. She couldn’t keep doding him forever–and there was no reason she should be scared of him.
She flew behind him, grabbed his wand, and bit into his shoulder. Sale-Dessu gave a pained gasp. La-Iin sucked blood from him until he was seeming lightheaded.
“I was wondering when you might turn on me,” La-Iin sighed. “I figured keeping a Warlock off of power suppressants would end up being dangerous sooner or later. But I did need your powers at the time. Now you’ve proven to me that I don’t.”
Sale-Dessu’s eyelids fluttered and he didn’t respond. La-Iin dragged him off, only struggling slightly.

When La-Iin head to the front of the castle, she was surprised to find Fer-Shi crying.
“What’s wrong?”
Fer-Shi sniffled. “Oh, La-Iin…I just don’t understand what you’re doing anymore. I never did, but turning on people who love you? I really thought that no matter what, you’d never do that…”
“What are you talking about?”
“I heard about what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo. And with Sale-Dessu. And I heard that what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo happened because of the way you were treating your mom…” She sniffled again. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to show those who betray me that they’ll regret what they’ve done. I already was unable to show this to Ei-Tio, so I have to be extra strict with further offenders.” She glared at Fer-Shi. “Don’t tell me you’re next.”
“La-Iin, it’s just…it’s getting to the point where I don’t see you anymore. I don’t like what you’ve done, not at all, but I’ve put up with it anyway because I could still tell that no matter how horrible what you were doing was, it was still you, you know? But now I don’t see that anymore. I just don’t understand what changed!”
La-Iin sighed. “La-Iin?”
“Ruling the world has never been an easy job…and I realize when I have to make sacrifices. Do you want to join your parents in a cage!?”
Fer-Shi’s expression looked stricken. “La-Iin, please! I know I can’t ask you to change, but please, don’t let this hateful part of you overtake you completely! I don’t want to have to stop you!”
La-Iin sighed. “That’s enough for me.” She bit into her arm. Fer-Shi seemed to notice what she was doing and ran off, but the strength from her ability made it easy for her to catch up. She slammed her to the floor and pinned her down.
“It doesn’t matter if you betray me, Fer-Shi. At the very least, I still have San-Kyung.”

“…what?”
San-Kyung glared at her. “Listen closely this time. Dosa-Mina died. I found him in his cage this morning, rotting away. He looked awful.” San-Kyung’s expression became one of hurt. “I’m going to bet this has nothing to do with sickness and everything to do with neglect. Or rather, a sickness caused by neglect.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, San-Kyung. Too much has been going on for me to pay attention to all of the slaves.”
“So you couldn’t even pay attention to the one “slave” I always wanted you to keep an eye on. Even being aware of how close we were before all this happened.”
“San-Kyung, you’re not the only one who lost a friend recently.”
San-Kyung growled. “La-Iin, now that the timing seems perfect, there’s something I need to tell you. Do you remember how I approached you and said I loved you, just when the world was on the cusp of being in your grasp?”
“How could I forget?”
“Did you notice anything strange about the timing?”
La-Iin’s confusion only lasted a moment. “No…”
“Exactly. You were only a means to an end for me.” San-Kyung struck his hands. “In your vulnerable state, I don’t see where the problem in taking you down is. You’ve been able to put away everyone else, but I know how you feel towards me. You’re in shock. You weren’t expecting this. So now’s my time to strike.”
He walked closer, and La-Iin could feel the heat from his flames. She felt at a standstill, and still deeply in shock, but she knew what she need to do. She came to her feet and flew at San-Kyung, knocking him to the ground and biting hard into his neck. She sucked his blood, then continued biting, all the while in a red haze and unaware of what was going on around her.
By the time she came to her senses, San-Kyung was unconscious, his breathing shallow. She let out a mournful wail and finally allowed herself to cry.

—–
La-Iin flinched.
“La-Iin! Why are you crying?”
La-Iin wiped at her eyes, but she still couldn’t forget what she had imagined. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see a way to effectively prepare for betrayal–she could barely imagine how some of her allies would betray her in the first place.
But the thought of San-Kyung’s betrayal….it was something she wouldn’t put past him.
She clung to Mit-Sun and tried to stifle her tears, but instead Mit-Sun stroked her head and kept her crying for far longer than she intended to.