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.

28.574.Life Unto Another World

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 575
“Life Unto Another World”

Sale-Dessu yawned.
“Father, it’s still light outside! Why are you so tired?”
“Sometimes I have a bit of trouble getting to sleep,” he said, rubbing his eye. “But don’t worry about me, Eul-Bok. I’ve had worse nights.”
“You haven’t been having nightmares again, have you? If you want, I can go back to sleeping in your room.”
“No, Eul-Bok, you deserve your own room. Please don’t worry about me. I have all the time in the world to sleep, and sooner or later the exhaustion will give way to a full nine or so hours of sleep…”
“Wow, that’s long!”
“After restless nights, it feels short.”
“I guess it would. I never really feel all that exhausted anymore, though. I used to feel more exhausted when I was a normal V-Puppet–” Eul-Bok sighed. “Really, Father, if there’s anything I can do for you…”
“Don’t worry. That will make things a lot better. If you’re worried it will only worry me. And it will pass, it always does. It’s only that it’s coming to August and I have an unpleasant memory from that month…”
“So it is nightmares.”
“No, not particularly.” He yawned. “Anyway, let’s get back to work. Want to take the lead, Eul-Bok?”
“Oh, um, I guess so.”

***

Eul-Bok searched through several books looking for some sort of answer to Sale-Dessu’s plight. ‘Think, think! There’s got to be something I can use to help him sleep and prevent nightmares.’
Looking in more modern books had already failed to give him an answer, so Eul-Bok turned to looking at older books written in the Warlock language. Managing through it was difficult, but he could still make out that so far, none of the spells, potions or items were things that would help Sale-Dessu–either they were entirely useless or were only good for putting him to sleep, and Eul-Bok saw no use in doing that if Sale-Dessu was only going to have a nightmare.
‘So after all these years of Warlocks doing amazing things, not a single one has found something to prevent nightmares!? It sounds so simple! So we can reality warp but no, nightmares are out of our league? Why don’t we have something to stop nightmares!?’
He continued to flip through the book, becoming progressively more frustrated at the lack of spells that would help Sale-Dessu with his nightmares. When finally he was about ready to shut the book, one of the pages tore slightly.
“Oh no! If Father sees this, he’ll be upset!”
Already he could imagine Sale-Dessu trying to suppress his sadness as he examined the tear. Eul-Bok looked at it closely. “….w-well, it isn’t actually that big…hm?”
When he caught sight of the words on the page, Eul-Bok’s attention was piqued. Curious, he read on.
…the theory of a power to enter another’s dreams: the power of “Subconscious Shift” or “Scenarial Change”. In this theory the power would grant access to an individual’s dreams or thoughts and grant them henceforth the ability to modify such things. Due to the invasive nature of the idea, research on the potential spell or ability was canceled, though the following was retrieved from experiments, it is not recommended for attempt by a Witch or Warlock not only due to the invasive nature but due to the possibility of irreversible injury to the Witch or Warlock’s body if attempted, assuming the effects would not be much worse.
Eul-Bok read over the spell. ‘Wow, it sounds dangerous…but it talked about modifying dreams! Maybe it’s worth a shot for Father’s sake. I survived switching bodies and assuming physical harm is the worst-case scenario, I don’t need to worry about that too much! But is it really worth it in the end?’
Eul-Bok thought it over. ‘Maybe, just maybe it is.’
He was concerned, but also immensely curious, and when he thought back on the things Sale-Dessu had done, or told him he’d done that could have harmed him, entering his dreams seemed harmless in comparison.
He decided to try it, whatever the cost.

Eul-Bok began to perform the spell as outlined in the book. He wasn’t sure whether he needed to be close by Sale-Dessu or not, and decided to be as cautious as possible. He stood right outside Sale-Dessu’s bedroom as he performed the spell as quietly as he could manage.
As he got further into the spell, he felt almost light-headed and his vision was blurring over. Still, he saw the spell through to the end–he was far more concerned about what might happen to him if he didn’t finish it than the potential side-effects he might face from finishing it.
Once he had completed the last part, his vision steadily went black, and he briefly felt himself drop to the floor.
When he opened his eyes, Eul-Bok was in a place he didn’t recognize. “Did I make it?”
“Eir-Tyuj is only concerned with her own curiosity. And that’s how you are too, isn’t it? You only care about learning how you could rule the world. That’s all it is with you Astineths. You disgust me.”
The voice came as a surprise to him, and Eul-Bok looked in its direction. A Warlock man was cornering a teenager to his right. When he got closer to the two, he realized that the cowering teenager was Sale-Dessu.
“I–I don’t want…rule the world…I just…practice my powers.”
Eul-Bok was both confused and terrified, but he realized his priorities were getting Sale-Dessu out of the situation. He ran past the Warlock man and pulled Sale-Dessu away from him. He tried to think back on the words in the book as he teleported himself and Sale-Dessu away.
Sale-Dessu looked terrified. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to save you.”
“Save me?”
“You don’t have to believe me off of my words. I’ll let you see it for yourself.”
“Would Father even recognize me right now? He doesn’t seem to. Probably not while he’s in a teenage mindset. But if I’m here, that means my spell succeeded, right? So maybe…”
“What are you talking about?”
Eul-Bok startled. “Er, nothing important! Um, hey, how’d you like to go someplace better than this? Geez, are my thoughts not my own anymore?”
“Why do you keep saying this stuff out loud?”
Eul-Bok sighed. “Just be patient with me, alright?”
Sale-Dessu gasped. “My Apeta! That man is still nearby our house! He might be going for my Apeta!”
“Father, wait!” Eul-Bok grit his teeth. He shut his eyes and imagined a different scenario. When he opened his eyes, he was inside Eir-Tyuj’s house, and Sale-Dessu was gradually becoming bigger. His eyes had teared up.
“Father!”
“Eul-Bok? What’s going on?”
“Um, we’re just visiting Grepeta! Isn’t it nice to visit her? I’m sure she’s got something great to show us today, heh heh. So we should probably go and see her!”
“Eul-Bok–”
“La la la la la~”
“Eul-Bok, just a moment ago, something seemed off…”
“Hey, Father, did I tell you I could reality-warp now? Yeahh, that’s probably it. I’ve been practicing, after all!”
“Something’s wrong, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok shut his eyes. When he opened them, the scenario around them had changed once more.
“What!?”
Now the two were in the center they had been in during Magica Cavintus, except this time it was devoid of any people.
“What is this…”
“Why, I thought it might be nice to visit this place after all that reality-warping!”
“You didn’t use a teleportation spell.”
“Yeah, well–” Eul-Bok tried to look cocky. “I am getting better.”
“You don’t have that much practice!”
“So it’s possible? Er, I mean, geez Father, stop being so nervous!”
He went over to hug Sale-Dessu, but tripped on his robe on the way there. When he looked up, an unfamiliar Witch woman, half-translucent, was staring at Sale-Dessu with a smile.
“Mamun…”
Eul-Bok began to feel guilty. “All I wanted to do was prevent that nightmare, but I’m just making it worse…”
Sale-Dessu turned around as if to remark, but he never got to. The scene around Eul-Bok became blurry, all save for a strange tube. Eul-Bok felt he had to go through the tube, and so followed his instincts.

—–
Sale-Dessu woke with a start.
“Mamun…”
The dream was soon no longer his top priority, as he quickly noticed that his bedroom door was open, and saw part of Eul-Bok slumped against it. He ran for the door and tapped Eul-Bok.
“Eul-Bok? Eul-Bok, are you alright!?”
Eul-Bok didn’t respond at first, and Sale-Dessu felt cold. But soon enough, Eul-Bok opened his eyes, glanced at Sale-Dessu, and startled.
“Whoa!”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” Eul-Bok looked up at Sale-Dessu. His expression seemed almost ashamed. “Hey, um, Father, what kind of dream did you have last night?”
“Last night?” The sight of his mother came to mind. “Mamun…”
“Was I in it?”
“You were. Why do you ask?”
Eul-Bok sighed. “There’s no point in keeping this secret from you. I wanted to try and keep you from getting a nightmare, so I tried a spell in this book. I guess I made it into your dreams, but I still messed them up. Sorry.”
“You what?”
“Geez, I feel fatigued.”
Sale-Dessu checked the book lying nearby Eul-Bok. It detailed a spell whose research had been cut after worries about invasions of privacy caused by its usage. Sale-Dessu gasped.
“Something wrong?”
“No, not particularly,” he said. “Um–Eul-Bok, you seem tired. Why don’t you go and rest?”
“Are you up to something, Father?”
“…” Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Never mind. Why don’t we start the day?”
“You sure? It’s a little early for that.”
“It’s never too early when you’re passionate. Besides, I got a better sleep last night than I have most nights recently. Thank you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok beamed. “You’re welcome!”
‘He managed to pull off a spell that was never officially pulled off. It could be an easy one, granted, but it doesn’t look that way…maybe Apeta really did pass on her potential to Eul-Bok too. But how? He isn’t her biological Apegrenneson.’
Sale-Dessu wasn’t sure if he should be proud or concerned as Eul-Bok returned with a different spell book.

18.564.Plans for the People

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 564
“Plans for the People”

“Hey, La-Iin. I see that you’re busy, but since I can talk right now, I’ve got a question for you that’s been nagging me lately.”
“What’s that? And hurry it up. I think this picture is going to be a masterpiece and I need as few distractions as possible.”
“I’d beg to differ, but whatever. I can’t remember, but did you say whether or not you had plans for all the people you mean to involve in your world-domination plots?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she set down her crayon. “Yes. I have big plans for quite a few people.”
“Ah, I see.”
“What, is that it? You don’t want to hear about my plans or anything?”
“As much as I would, I know you won’t give me the full story because it’s supposed to be a secret. As if I could tell anyone anyway.”
“I have no guarantees on that now that Sale-Dessu found out you can make V-Puppets autonomous. And you make a great point, why spoil my plans? But I can tell you who I have plans for. That would be Fer-Shi, Mama and Dami, Choungetsu, but only a little bit, Ai-Reia, sort of, Sara, rival-boy, Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, and San-Kyung of course, and you.”
“Is that it?”
“Unless you want to count my future children or wanting to see if Imagination is still alive nine-hundred years from now. Then yes. There might be a few people I have smaller plans for, but those are the ones I have major plans for.”
“I have to question some of those choices. Don’t you dislike rival-boy–what was his name, Dosa-Mina?”
“Yes, he’s Dosa-Mina. And I do have plans for someone who’s caused me so much trouble.” La-Iin gripped her crayon tightly. “If you want to hear anything, you’ll have to ask me after I’m done drawing, though. Oh, and I guess I have a little bit of a plan for Ei-Tio, too, but it’s a work in progress.”
“Huh.”
“I have a lot of plans, Bes-Isa. You should have known that plans for the people would be among them.”

***

“La-Iin, you said you wanted Narwhaltae blood, right? Are you planning on giving the slaves a bath?”
“If you want the slaves to be clean, clean them yourself.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Most of the slaves don’t like me….agh! La-Iin, do you have to breastfeed Chung-Ae in front of me?”
“It wasn’t in front of you before you got here.”
“Things aren’t the same anymore…and I’m even more scared of San-Kyung now that he has a kid with you.”
“Of course things aren’t the same. I succeeded in world domination. I won San-Kyung’s heart. And now I’ve had our child. Things are a lot different than the days we spent at Malicerie.”
“How about the days we spent at Desutrap? Do you still remember those?”
“Desutrap?”
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“I remember going to a stupid preschool and meeting you, but the name Desutrap doesn’t ring any bells.”
“You should remember it, though! You had it torn down almost as soon as you started ruling the world!”
“Oh. That. I blocked it out, at least until now.”
“Well, if you remember our time at Desutrap, I guess that’s enough for me. I’m glad that you’re happy, La-Iin. I just wish I could be, too.”
“Are you not happy? You might be my slave, but you’re treated much better than the other slaves. And I call on you for some advice.”
“Yeah, I know. But my Mom and Dad, you don’t spare them any leniency. You don’t do it for Shan-Zetsu or Cae-Bougen either…”
“They’re different to me than you are, Fer-Shi. Namely, I don’t care about them.”
“I know…”
La-Iin sighed. “Fer-Shi, of course the world is plenty different nowadays. And I’ve accomplished my dream. Someday my conquest will become worse and more widespread. But I don’t want you to be miserable.”
“It’s hard not to be when this is what you didn’t want to happen…”
La-Iin stroked Fer-Shi’s head. “Maybe I’ll let your Mama and Dami out for a few moments someday.”
“Thanks, La-Iin.”
La-Iin dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell no one this. But ruling the world has not made me hate you. You are a slave because I worry about your influence if I let you be more. But I will still try to keep you happy.”
Fer-Shi smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin. I had a bit of a feeling, though. You do treat me pretty nicely despite all that’s happened. Would you like me to watch Chung-Ae for you someday in return?”
La-Iin glared. “No.”
“Okay, okay.”

“La-Iin, I wanted to ask you a question,” Mit-Sun rasped.
“What, Mama?”
“How come you let Asul-Zenza out of his cage but not me?”
“It’s payback for all the years you messed up while raising me. Which is a lot.”
“What!? But that isn’t fair! You realize which of your parents has less time to live, right!?”
“I’m aware. And stop yelling. It isn’t doing you any favors.”
Mit-Sun whimpered. “La-Iin, I understand there were a lot of times I messed up. But isn’t this a little excessive? If you keep me in here that long, by the time you show me any leniency it won’t really matter all that much, will it?”
“You’re only bartering with me. I know it doesn’t mean anything, Mama! You’d only set out to raise a rebellion against me the moment I let you out. I can’t trust you. Your treatment is based solely on how you acted towards me in the past.”
“Didn’t I do some things right? Weren’t there some days we enjoyed together? Even if it’s just me making mincemeat pie, weren’t there any times you enjoyed with me? Really, La-Iin, I wouldn’t want to raise a rebellion against you. I know that’s just suicide. But I’ve seen that you show Fer-Shi some leniency, and really, I would love to meet my grandson.”
“Appealing to me that way won’t work, Mama. I can’t focus on what you did right at the moment. The world is in my grasp, but it’s still precarious. The slightest show of favoritism is a potential show of weakness–Fer-Shi knows this. Perhaps the day things change and the world will eternally be within my grasp your situation will change as well. But you should know I still haven’t forgiven you for everything.”
“La-Iin…”
“But I don’t hate you. And…I do make sure you’re taken care of before the other slaves. So–” She grimaced and spread her wings. “So be patient. And don’t die on me. I’ll see to it that your treatment changes someday. But I’m no benevolent ruler. Know that.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. ‘That was too much of a show of weakness…’

“La-Iin, as grateful as I am to be allowed outside of the cages, I truly have some questions for the way you are handling things.”
“Do you have any suggestions, Dami?”
“No, it isn’t like that. Do you not think that someday your slaves will realize that my being free is favoritism and not a case of assisting you? What will you do then?”
“I would figure by then Chung-Ae would be grown up. And at that day I think my hold over the world will be stable enough that I won’t even need to care about something like that. Trust me, Dami, I have plans for the future that extend far past just the next decade.”
“I see. And another thing, was the shock necklace necessary? How did you procure something like this in the first place?”
“That’s confidential, Dami. i trust you, but this is necessary to keep secret. And that’s necessary too, just in case you ever decide to betray me.”
“La-Iin, you know I would never do that.”
“Whether you would or wouldn’t, I’m prepared for it all the same. I’ve been prepared to be betrayed since I was little, so I’m ready to deal with it if it happens. But I trust that you would never betray me, Dami. But this is no sign of weakness.”
“You’ve changed, La-Iin. You weren’t this scared of showing your flaws in the past…”
“San-Kyung has had to handle most of the brunt work now that Chung-Ae has been born, and it’s uncertain just how long he’s going to stay like a baby. Just because I was lucky doesn’t mean Chung-Ae will be. The world isn’t entirely under my grasp yet, and I’m not completely capable of sedating the powers of millions of people. I can’t afford to mess up here. You should understand that.”
“You needn’t act so tough around me, though…I will not betray you. I will say that as many times as it takes for you to believe me. And you needn’t do it around all your other loved ones–speaking of, when do you plan on letting Mit-Sun out of her cage?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Dami, I love you, but you really don’t understand any of how this is supposed to work.”
She flew off, Asul-Zenza watching her with widened eyes.

“Relent.”
“Never!”
La-Iin kicked at the cage. Ai-Reia flinched. “I can do much worse than that.”
“I’m prepared to die before i join your alliance. I know what you’ve done to my loved ones. I should have taken more precautions!”
“It’s not your fault you lack my ability to grow faster,” La-Iin said. “I offered you a good position among my ranks. I’ve trusted you even though you’ve given me so much reason not to. I’ve threatened you constantly, and yet still you don’t relent?”
“I told you, I never will!”
“I’m surprised the child prodigy never considered lying to gain the ability to assassinate me.”
“I’m surprised that this supposedly-smart world ruler never thought that, as a prodigy, I would consider what options are downright suicidal. I know the difference in our power, La-Iin. But I shall prevail all the same!”
“So you say.” La-Iin took off.
“I’m willing to work by your side, La-Iin.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Ai-Reia. Your assistance is just what I need. Your ability to retain information is a handy one. And I’ll admit, it will be beneficial to have someone who shares my lifespan on my team.”

No matter how much she dwelled back on her childhood fantasies of her plans for Ai-Reia, each time she visited her cage it seemed less and less likely that they would come true. Swallowing her frustration, she picked up in speed.

“Hello, Shuu-Kena. How goes everything?”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin,” Shuu-Kena said. “Everything seems fine so far. I don’t see anyone planning a mutiny or anything. And even if they were, none of them are close to your tower, so I don’t think you need to worry about anything happening to Chung-Ae.”
“I’ll never be worried about anything happening to Chung-Ae until the moment something does happen. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.” La-Iin glanced at her hand. “Is that a bottle of blood?”
“Yeah. Here you go.” She handed the bottle to La-Iin, who quickly downed half of it and sighed in relief. “It’s been too long since I had blood that fresh…”
“It seems like it was recently.”
“There has been a lot going on, Shuu-Kena.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Speaking of Chung-Ae, how is he?”
“He’s fine. I have high hopes for him. …loathe as I am to thank anyone, Shuu-Kena, I have to thank you for your assistance. You’ve been a helpful asset. Neutrals certainly can be sometimes.”
“Thank you back, La-Iin. To be honest, I don’t really care for all the world domination stuff so much, but I think you knew that already. And, well, at least you haven’t murdered anybody yet. You were a saving grace from my family, too. I feel like I owe you. And that you haven’t put me in a cage like the rest of them.”
“I understand.” La-Iin spread her wings. “By the way, I wouldn’t mind a nice and dark picture for Chung-Ae’s bedroom. I feel like it’s missing a little something.”
“Certainly, La-Iin. I’ll make one as soon as I have the time.”
La-Iin nodded and took off. Shuu-Kena glanced out around the landscape, and seeing that there was no activity, sat down with a canvas and began to paint.

“How are you feeling, Dosa-Mina?”
“I’ve had better days…I wish today was one of the days I wasn’t sick.”
“San-Kyung!” La-Iin snapped. “I thought you were home watching Chung-Ae.”
“I thought you were home with him.”
“Evidently not. I have to do my rounds around this time. It’s not safe to leave him on his own, you know.”
“He’s not on his own, though.”
“He’s on his own surrounded by people who are mostly fairly weak.”
Dosa-Mina glanced at both of them. “So even you two fight.”
“Are you really surprised? We fought all the time when we were kids.”
“Quiet, rival-boy.”
“Sorry. …say, San-Kyung, I know you have to head home now, but can you tell me a little bit about Chung-Ae?”
“What can I tell you? He’s a baby. He drools, he soils his diaper, but he’s got quite a grip. I’m thinking he’ll end up more powerful than I am.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“If this conversation is about over, you have your son to attend to,” La-Iin snapped. San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“You spend plenty of time with Fer-Shi. I don’t understand why you don’t grant Dosa-Mina the same privileges you grant her.”
“Because I don’t like him, San-Kyung. Besides, I don’t think you understand what I mean by precarious situation. I don’t think anyone understands except for me, in fact!”
“People might understand better if you clarified what they were,” Dosa-Mina said. La-Iin hissed at him.
“La-Iin, you’re being unreasonable. You realize I have about equal power to you when it comes to what is done with the slaves, right?”
“You agreed with my slave plan!”
“I know. But I’m saying, Dosa-Mina–”
“I really wish I had put his cage someplace you couldn’t find it.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Maybe you really should head back home…”
“You gave Fer-Shi another purpose!”
“Oh, quit fighting with me over this! You have more important people in your life now. But fine, if you’re really so determined for Dosa-Mina to get special privileges, then once I feel he’s served enough time in there and the situation stabilizes, I’ll let him be a tower slave. Happy?”
“I never believe you when it comes to Dosa-Mina.”
La-Iin huffed. “Just get back to Chung-Ae, San-Kyung! I still have rounds to go, you know!”

Midnight had arrived, and now having retired to the tower, La-Iin went to visit Sale-Dessu, who was examining the corpse of Choungetsu.
“How goes the extended lifespan experiments?”
“I haven’t been able to figure anything out yet,” Sale-Dessu said. “I really don’t understand how this ‘lifespan gene’ works. I’m starting to think the scholars of the past were a little deluded…”
“Maybe that’s something I should ask Dosa-Mina on,” La-Iin mused. “Well, just keep working on it.”
“What if I can’t bring Choungetsu back, La-Iin? You won’t torture me for that, will you?”
La-Iin lowered her head. “No. I won’t. As much as I want Choungetsu back, my top priority is extending San-Kyung’s lifespan so that he will live at a time equal to me. At this rate, no matter how long he lives he will not be part of my and Chung-Ae’s lives for too long. I don’t want that to happen. If there’s any chance that I can have him live as long as I can, then I will take that.”
“Are you looking for immortality, La-Iin?”
La-Iin lifted up her head. “No, not particularly. But tell me if you find out anything in regards to it. I’ll take that if it’s available to me…but there might be one exception.”
“Hm?”
“It’s nothing. Get back to work. I plan on letting Eul-Bok out tomorrow, so you’ll have a companion to help you.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“You know I don’t listen when you say that.”

“It’s about time you showed up.”
“How’s Chung-Ae?”
“Fine. He hasn’t cried at all since I got back.”
“That’s good.”
San-Kyung glanced at La-Iin. “Now that we’re alone, do you mind telling me what it is you’re so worried about?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem concerned about nearly everything.”
“Isn’t it obvious? My ruling of the world isn’t perfect yet. I have a child to think of now, so that makes everything much harder, especially since he’s still relying on me for food. And that’s not to mention if we do go through with that plan of having more. You’re not the youngest in the world either, San-Kyung. Our age gap might not be the worst I’ve heard of, but it is concerning.”
“Something you should have realized years ago?”
“I worry that even with all the planning I did beforehand that I’m going to mess up somewhere,” she sighed. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been. The world, or at least a part of it, is mine. I have you as my husband, and we have a child now. The people who are important to me still live and most help me. I have almost all that I want, and yet I can’t just be happy about it. Instead I’m left worrying about the possibility of just the smallest thing going wrong and ruining all I have worked for.”
“Your stress won’t help much either. You must keep a level head about this. And don’t forget, you said it yourself that you are not alone. Your method of ruling the world might not have been my ideal, but I never planned on being entirely alone, either.”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. Chung-Ae was fast asleep in his crib, looking content. “With stress or without it I’ll keep working to keep my goal intact, San-Kyung. Now that I’ve tasted this happiness I’m not going to let it go so easily.”

—–
“Hello, Bes-Isa.”
“Hello, La-Iin. It’s been a while.”
“It has been, but I’ve been busy. I felt like tonight I could use your advice. Hence why I came here.”
“You don’t need to talk so formally around me, you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Well, whatever advice you need, I’m willing to give. What is it?”
“It’s a lot of things, Bes-Isa. So I hope you’re feeling patient.”
“After being stuck in the dark so long it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s better than that anyday.”
“That’s good enough for me.”

15.561.A Little Something

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 561
“A Little Something”

Eul-Bok took a deep breath. Focusing as intensely as he could, he set to work on changing the scrap of cloth in front of him into a present for Sale-Dessu.
He tried to clear his mind of all distracting thoughts, and though he focused solely on the image of what he was trying to change, he was gradually becoming more excited as if the thought nudging him at the corners of his mind was all that was on it.
Just as he could see the results of his efforts, a knock sounded at his door.
“Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok startled. The cloth, half-changed into fluff, fell back down onto his night desk limply, and Eul-Bok recoiled at a shooting pain in his head.
“Is everything alright?”
Eul-Bok turned around. “Everything’s fine, Father! Just practicing my powers a bit before bed! Wh-what are you doing up? It’s pretty late isn’t it?”
“I could say the same to you. I was just making myself a little warm milk. I’ve been having a taste for milk lately.”
Eul-Bok’s eyes widened. “I could tell…”
“We should both get some sleep. There’s a few things I want to do tomorrow. After all, well, I think you know what tomorrow is, right?”
“Of course I do. How could I forget? Heh heh, last year at the Cahongyun’s house…”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “This year we’re not going there. I felt so ashamed, falling asleep on them like that. This year we’re spending the day at our house. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well, I’ll make sure it’s a great day! We’ll do whatever you want to do, Father, so just say the word and we’ll be doing it!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok.” He yawned. “Well, I should head off to bed now…good night…”
“Good night, Father. And sweet dreams.”
‘And of course we’ll do the things you want to. But where’s the harm in a little bit of surprise?’
Recently Eul-Bok had been listening closely to all Sale-Dessu said. Even the smallest thing he had implied an interest in Eul-Bok had considered. He wanted to go along with what Sale-Dessu wanted to do, but he also wanted to surprise him with the things he would like.
He turned back to the half-cloth half-fluff and set to work on finishing it, before that keeping in mind Sale-Dessu’s taste for milk. Once he had successfully transformed the cloth-fluff, he set to work on finishing the rest of the tasks he had set for himself.

***

When Sale-Dessu opened his eyes that morning, the first thing he caught sight of was Eul-Bok sitting on a stool in his room, watching him with a smile. He startled for only a moment before taking a breath and calming down.
“You scared me, Eul-Bok.”
“Sorry, Father. But I was just so excited! I can’t wait to see how you–I mean, what you want to do!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I wonder if you’re more excited for my birthday than I am. I’ll get ready and then we’ll get to work.”
“Don’t call it work! It’s your birthday! You want to do these things because you enjoy them, right?”
“Of course.”
‘He really is excited today. I wonder why?’ In recent years Sale-Dessu hadn’t seen his birthday as anything special, even forgetting it some years, and though last year had been more than the usual it had still been fairly relaxed.
‘I was excited for my birthdays when I was young. I guess with a child in the house I should expect this kind of thing.’
Sale-Dessu head off to take a shower and put on his clothes.
“Eul-Bok! I’m ready!” He called.
“Alright!”
Eul-Bok ran out from Sale-Dessu’s room and stopped next to him. “Why were you still in my room?”
“Nowhere else to go. Now what’s first!?”
“Well, I haven’t used my water-powered train much recently, and there was something interesting I was pursuing there…”
Sale-Dessu noticed Eul-Bok’s face drop. “That’s outside, isn’t it? Isn’t there anything you want to do inside?”
“The rest of it is inside. Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll take care of the train later. I can see you’re eager to do something right now.”
“That’s an understatement!”
“Well, then, why don’t we start with potion making? Have I ever helped you make a potion?”
Eul-Bok shrugged. The two head to the main area. On their way there, something smacked Sale-Dessu in the face.
“Ow…”
“You alright, Father?”
“I’m fine. Something hanging off the wall hit me in the face…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing big. Here, I can lead the way!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. But I’ll be fine.”
After uncovering his eye, Sale-Dessu caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a colorful setup right at the entrance to his home. In front of him he could see that Eul-Bok looked anxious.
‘So that’s why he’s so eager. I should have known…’ “Actually, if you want to lead the way, you can. We are doing this for me, but this is a good chance for me to teach you a few more things.”
“Yeah! Hey, anything you have planned for today wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with those more complicated procedures you know, right? I’m so curious about how you learned to do some of the things you can do!”
“Like what?”
“Oh, hex change operation?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Maybe one of those more complicated procedures is in my plans, but hex change operation is not one of them…”

Eul-Bok’s eagerness made Sale-Dessu’s day fairly enjoyable. As they mixed potions together Eul-Bok did so with such a force and glee that it made Sale-Dessu chuckle just to watch. In general he seemed fairly cheerful, and it was a bit infectious. Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder what he had done that had him so excited and eager to finish what he wanted to do.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun mixing potions,” Sale-Dessu said. “Maybe I should have you do it for me more often.”
“Aw, come on, Father, you barely make potions for any good reason. Although it would be a good arm exercise.”
“You don’t need arm exercise, Eul-Bok.”
“I know, I know, but it’s fun to pretend I do. But you know what, I’m wrong. Even though you make a lot of pretty worthless potions, these ones we’re making now are all for medicinal reasons, right?”
“Yes. Just in case something happens to you or me, that’s why I’m making these potions. I just felt like making potions today, so I figured that I might as well make some that are helpful in nature.”
“It’s a good idea!”
Eul-Bok continued to stir vigorously. Sale-Dessu couldn’t stifle another chuckle.
Potion-making wasn’t all they did either. Sale-Dessu did eventually set to work on his water-powered train after Eul-Bok had strained his mind during a joint transformation spell.
“I had a feeling that wouldn’t work,” Sale-Dessu had sighed. “Eul-Bok, are you alright?”
“Yeah, probably….but I need to lay down for a little bit…”
Most of their activities were simple things however, such as making small treats or performing simple and ridiculous spells, such as an ‘instant hair dye’ spell that both Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok had used to change the color of Sale-Dessu’s hair into a multitude of colors; once, Eul-Bok even turned it rainbow.
“How did you manage that!?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eul-Bok giggled. “Oh, just with the strength of wanting to see something totally ridiculous.”
Even though it was simple, Sale-Dessu was happy. He was excited to see what it was that Eul-Bok was planning, and Eul-Bok’s own excitement made the day quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t until the sun started to set that they reached the end of all Sale-Dessu had wanted to do.
“That was pretty fun, Father. I realized something from today, you can do a lot of the stuff that I can do at incredible speeds!”
“That’s because I’ve been practicing for years. You know that. But I’m certain that soon enough you and I will have a similar level of ability.”
“Yeah, if by soon enough you mean years!”
“Well, we have more than some other species. And it won’t be so long that I’m an old man by that point.”
“Geez, it feels like both you and Grepeta are trying too hard to flatter me.”
“We can’t help but be proud of you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Hey, Father? Now that we’re done with all you wanted to do, can you do me a favor?”
‘Here it comes.’ “What’s that?”
“I want you to cover your eyes. Both of them, and not with your hair! With this.” He handed him a blindfold. Sale-Dessu put it on. “I’ll lead the way, so don’t worry about bumping into anything.”
“Ow!”
“Oops, sorry.”
Sale-Dessu was excited as Eul-Bok led the way through some part of the house he wasn’t sure of–though he had a good feeling he knew where he was going.
“Now sit down, and don’t peek!”
He could hear Eul-Bok crashing around the house and various things opening and closing. From behind him he thought he heard the refrigerator open. ‘Am I in the kitchen? I thought for sure he’d take me to the main area.’
“You can look now!”
Sale-Dessu reached for the blindfold and pulled it off. Eul-Bok stood in front of him, and behind him the table was decorated in a fancy style. A plate of dinner sat behind him as well as a large white cake behind the plate. Eul-Bok appeared to be holding something, and he soon draped it over him.
“Happy Birthday, Father!”
“Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t look so surprised, Father. It’s just a little something.”
“How can you say that? You went above and beyond!”
Eul-Bok grinned. “Thanks for the compliments, Father. I’ve been planning this for a while now. Last year all I could do was get the Cahongyun’s help, but this year I was able to do it all on my own! I had a lot of trouble with the blanket, though.” He lowered his head. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it, Eul-Bok. This is the most comfortable blanket I’ve felt in a while. I wonder why I never thought to make more comfortable ones for my bed. I think I’ll sleep quite well with this.”
Eul-Bok’s grin widened. “Well, you can start dinner now, then! But I have to clean up. I made a bit of a mess in the main area.”
He ran off. ‘So that’s what that was. I’d better not say anything, though.’ Even having expected it, it was still a pleasant surprise. Sale-Dessu started to eat, and was surprised by how good the gravy tasted.

—–
Night had fallen, and after a long and cheerful celebration with the milk cake Eul-Bok had made, Sale-Dessu tidied a few things around the house before deciding to retire for the night. Already Eul-Bok seemed exhausted, but he still stayed by Sale-Dessu’s side, smiling wide.
Just as he had changed into pajamas and was almost ready to retire, something slammed against his window. When he opened it, he spotted Bes-Isa, a piece of paper taped to her. He took the paper off and took a look at it. It was a crude picture of him and Eul-Bok around a cake that was set on fire.
Good job allie, not freelowding this year. Have a happy birthday not! -La-Iin
Sale-Dessu stifled a chuckle as Bes-Isa went flying backwards through the air with a screech.
“Geez, she really can’t draw all that well.”
“She can’t,” he admitted. “But that’s alright. It’s a nice picture.”
He hung it up in his room.

14.560.The Morals of V-Puppetry

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 560
“The Morals of V-Puppetry”

“La-Iin, I have a question.”
“What?”
“Do you really think it’s fair to shove me into such a tight space while you’re doing your homework? You take FOREVER to do it. And I can feel discomfort, you know.”
“I know, that’s why I did it. I hate doing my homework, so seeing you like that out the corner of my eye gives me motivation to go on.”
“How!?”
“This homework is but a momentary distraction while I wait for puberty to enhance my abilities. Sooner or later I’ll become taller and stronger and I’ll be able to shove more than just you into a small space like that!”
“If you shove a person into a tight space the way you’ve shoved me, they’ll die, I hope you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“I thought your niche was torture, not murder.”
“Given the choice I’d never choose to murder. Torture’s more entertaining. But don’t think I’m above murder, because I’m not.”
“Like you’ve ever killed anything before.”
“I’ve killed bugs and plants.”
“Oh, woop-de-doo.”
“If I killed a cicada in front of a Cicadin they would go crazy.”
“Yeah, amaz–actually, that might be pretty entertaining to watch.”
“Mm-hm.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you’re an evil f@%ker for shoving me in here, though. Being a V-Puppet is equal to suffering. They’re almost the same thing.”
“Yeah, when you’re evil you do stuff like this.”
The bedroom fell silent, save for the sound of La-Iin’s pencil against paper.
“Hey, I’ve got a fun idea for you and me once you’re done with that.”
“I can do it now, you know.”
“Oh yeah. I was thinking, after what I said earlier–V-Puppetry is pretty evil. You bring this thing to life knowing that it will never be able to move on its own, well, unless you’re crazy like Sale-Dessu, but he’s a massive exception. And even if you COULD, everyone would want their hands on you for research. Before you become a V-Puppet, you’re an empty husk and people would think nothing of losing or breaking you. Maybe not even when you are already a V-Puppet.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty horrible. But don’t blame me because even if I wasn’t evil, I brought you to life when I was just a baby. Babies are pretty much always neutral.”
“Yeah, yeah, but you forgot the fun idea part. So Sale-Dessu calls himself good, right? And I know he made Eul-Bok autonomous and that kid’s his devoted toadie, but think we might be able to mess with his mind by telling him this stuff?”
“Ooh, mental torture.”
“Exactly! I wanna see if we can get a reaction out of him. Can we go?”
“Certainly.” La-Iin set down her pencil, maneuvered Bes-Isa out of the cramped space, and walked downstairs. Choungetsu greeted her with a happy bark.
“Not today, Choungetsu.”
Choungetsu stared at her in confusion.
“Where are you going now?” Mit-Sun asked. “I was about to make a snack.”
“Why, because you’re bored?”
“Don’t use that tone with me. Summer isn’t as fun for me as it is for you, you know. Meanwhile you get to go out nearly every day if you want to.”
“Yes, well, I’m going somewhere now, too. Over to Sale-Dessu’s. Just so you don’t kill me. You know, Mama, there are plenty of things you can do. Haner being useless doesn’t change that. You have your Dami and other friends and me, but today Bes-Isa got to me first so you’re out of luck. I’m going over now.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Just come back soon. I might take you up on that offer of doing something with you.”
“So long as it’s not annoying.” She walked out the door and head over to Sale-Dessu’s house. The door was locked as usually recently, so she kicked on the door. When Sale-Dessu arrived, he looked frazzled.
“Spell gone wrong or is this because La-Iin kicked the door?”
“What do you think!?” Sale-Dessu said. “You really scared me, La-Iin. I had to check out the window to make sure it was you!”
“Who else would it be? The police?”
“Um, no. Well, you two can come in. Oh, La-Iin, what do you think about tea?”
“Unless you fill it with milk it’s disgusting. Mama made me drink it once and it made me want to throw up until milk was put in. It makes my mouth go crazy!”
“Well, I boiled this tea with milk, so maybe you’ll like it? I agree, tea tastes best with milk.”
“You mean it only tastes good with lots of milk.”
Sale-Dessu beckoned La-IIn into the kitchen and set down cups of tea.
“Father, should I even bother trying to drink this?”
“That’s up to you, Eul-Bok. Try if you want. By the way, La-Iin and Bes-Isa are over.”
La-Iin heard Eul-Bok groan. “Father, why do you even bother letting them in anymore?”
“They’re my allies, Eul-Bok.” Sale-Dessu set the cups of tea down on the table. La-Iin climbed into the chair next to Eul-Bok, who glared at her out the corner of his eye.
“Milk tea? Why are you doing something as mundane as this?”
“Not all my experiments are power-related. And I had a craving. I drank this once when I was young…” Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Anyway, you can have as much as you want, La-Iin.”
La-Iin took a sip of the tea and gave it a curious look.
“What did you come here for today, La-Iin? Did you want the books I promised you? I have them in a bag somewhere. I’m sorry I didn’t get them to you last time.”
“Actually, we’re here at my request, because there’s something curious I wanted to talk with you about, Sale-Dessu. It has to do with V-Puppetry.”
“What’s that? Have you changed your mind about autonomy, Bes-Isa?”
“I still want to be autonomous as much as ever, and not in the way you have right now. That hasn’t changed, and it has nothing to do with that. In fact it’s incredibly contrary, because it has to do with V-Puppetry prior to becoming autonomous like Euly-boy there has.”
“You know, if you don’t like me, you don’t need to give me a nickname. I don’t call you Bessy.”
“If I ever hear that out of your mouth again, the day I become autonomous I’ll slug you!”
“Don’t fight!” Sale-Dessu snapped. “Er, yes? What is it?”
“I’ve been thinking about all the times I suffered at the hands of La-Iin. All the times she flung me around and all the times I’ve been left on my own, just to my thoughts…I know as much as I do because I’ve been left by the radio a lot. Eul-Bok probably knows as much as he does because you dote on him like a son. But when you really get into the nitty-gritty, V-Puppets are pretty evil, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re bringing an inanimate object to life, and even though lots of people make little dolls specifically to become V-Puppets, there are lots of people who buy mass-produced V-Puppet shells and make those into their V-Puppets. How would you feel if you knew that someone was mass-producing Sale-Dessu look-alikes somewhere in the world?”
“…”
“Lots of people see V-Puppets as just a toy. And when they outgrow their ‘toy’ they put it away and forget about it for years. And what about when you die? V-Puppets live until we are too destroyed to be repaired. If our master dies, we will never be able to move the same way again. We’ll just rot away, left to our thoughts, stuck in the same dark place for all eternity….”
La-Iin glanced at Sale-Dessu’s expression. During Bes-Isa’s rant it had gone from a curious one to one of horror. She smirked.
“When people have babies, most of them are looking to care for the baby, and raise it to become good, neutral or evil, but still they want to love and cherish the baby and watch them achieve a goal. They want the baby to survive and such. Some people think otherwise, but lots of people, even some evil people, think it’s horrible to use a baby in that way depending on what they did. Even some evil people think killing babies is going too far. But with a V-Puppet? We’re more disposable. Some people don’t even believe we are able to talk on our own. We’re mostly seen as the sign of a child’s first power, and are equated as being as precious as a disposable toy the child will eventually get rid of or in a best-case scenario pass down. In short, even good people tend to make V-Puppets suffer. Even when we’re carried around and loved, we’re essentially like a person who’s become little more than a vegetable. We cannot move. We can mostly just think. And only a person who really takes us seriously would care for us in a way that makes us happy. Some people even torture us like La-Iin does to me. And what she does isn’t even the worst that can be done. It’s all pretty sick, huh?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Eul-Bok asked.
“I hear a lot on the news. …hey, why’re you crying?”
“I wasn’t taught that V-Puppets are disposable,” he said. “I was taught they were just like a baby, and they should be loved and cared for. I think it’s horrible that people would do that to V-Puppets! I don’t think they’re disposable or like a child’s toy that they’ll outgrow, and I’m certain plenty of people would agree with me! I would never just abandon Eul-Bok like that!”
“Yeah, because you basically adopted him. Ah, but, well, I guess we’re not all the same, and not all of us have miserable lives. I just wanted to give you something to chew on.”
“I wish I could help make more V-Puppets autonomous,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But I don’t want to compromise Eul-Bok, either…”
“Don’t get so worked up over it. I just wanted to make you think.”
“You’ve definitely made me think.”
“You guys upset Father. Now he’s going to be miserable for the rest of the day.”
“I didn’t say anything,” La-Iin said. “The milk tea came out okay, Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”

—–
“Father, what Bes-Isa said to you isn’t still stressing you out, is it?”
“No, not really,” he sighed. “But Apeta and Mamun, they taught me a V-Puppet isn’t just a glorified toy. I know you’re just like all living beings. You have your own feelings. And you have hopes and dreams just like us people.”
“If it weren’t for what would happen if you did, do you think you would tell the world you knew how to make us autonomous?”
“I would if I could,” he said. “But with the danger my name’s caused me, the sudden fame, the changes to my life, the disruptions in yours…I could never do it, Eul-Bok. No matter how much my soul wants to.”

12.558.Makeshire-Kyung

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 558
“Makeshire-Kyung”

Early Sunday morning at the Dslellular house, a knock sounded at the door.
“I wonder who that is?” Orlin-Aesth said. “Dosa-Mina, can you get the door?”
“Fine, fine,” he sighed, putting his book down. When he opened the door, his eyes widened in surprise at the sight of La-Iin standing there, her expression serious. Close behind her was Choungetsu, who watched Dosa-Mina while lolling his tongue.
“Before you ask any questions, rival-boy, know that I’m not here for any other reason other than having you help me with a…project of mine will benefit me. I need your help for something!”
“How do you remember the way here?”
“Like I said, I retain any information I consider useful. Besides, I’ve been here more than once. Now, you need to listen up. I have a plan for something I want San-Kyung to do, but I don’t think he’ll do it without your goading…”
She beckoned to Dosa-Mina to crouch down. He decided to oblige. “Huh? …oh, that does sound interesting. Well, you definitely came to the right person, La-Iin! If anyone has a chance of convincing San-Kyung to do something, it’s me. Though I can’t guarantee he’ll go along with that.”
“Any extra percentage I gain from you is a good thing. But don’t think I like this arrangement one bit!”
“I know, I know. If you keep denying it it makes it sound like you actually do like this arrangement.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. Letting Choungetsu lead the way, she and Dosa-Mina walked away from his house to discuss their plan.
“Oh, if I’m going to go somewhere, I better tell my Dad first. He’s used to me leaving without notice but I’d rather he knows I’m going off.”
La-Iin scoffed, but didn’t protest. Dosa-Mina head back to his house. Choungetsu tried to follow him, but Dosa-Mina quickly outran the leash’s length and he was pulled backwards.

***

After the recent dispute La-Iin had had with Mit-Sun, a feeling had stirred inside of her and prompted her to leave the house that Sunday morning under the guise of visiting Sale-Dessu for some advice.
“Sale-Dessu, I need you to do something for me, ally to ally.”
“What’s that, La-Iin?”
“I need you to pretend that I’m here if Mama comes over,” she said. “I need to do something important, but Mama doesn’t like me going off on my own unless I’m going to see someone. And I am, but I don’t think she’ll agree.”
Sale-Dessu’s stare gave no indication of how he would respond. “Are you sure you should be doing this?”
“You’re not my Dami. You’re my ally, so cover for me!”
“I might not be your father, but I am a father, so I can understand some of your mother’s concern,” he said. “Besides, I really don’t know how I would cover for you. What if Mit-Sun comes inside and starts looking for you? Eventually she’ll find out you’re not in here.”
“Disguise Eul-Bok as me, then. You’re a Warlock. You can do things like that. Don’t tell me you can’t, if you can glitch the world you can do that!”
“Eul-Bok doesn’t act anything like you, La-Iin, and I’m pretty sure she’d be able to tell something was off. Besides, I can’t risk her looking around and finding Eul-Bok in his state. I trust your mother, but not that much.”
La-Iin huffed. “You’re a shitty ally sometimes, you know!?”
“What!?”
“Fine, I’ll go with Choungetsu! At least he’s stupid enough not to care.”
“I-I’m sorry, La-Iin! It’s really only because I’m worried about messing up! I’ll owe you, I promise!”
“How funny to see this powerful man cowering to a little girl. I must be stronger than I thought. Fine, you’ll owe me, and you’ll owe me big time. But I understand, I guess. Mama can be violent sometimes and I wouldn’t want her kicking you in the crotch.”
Sale-Dessu paled. “She would do that? La-Iin, I’m sorry, I really am going to have to owe you…”
La-Iin snickered. “Oh, she probably wouldn’t do it to you, but we shouldn’t take those chances. Prepare yourself, my ally!” She closed the door and head back to her house, then beckoned to Choungetsu.
“Oh, so you’re taking him on a walk yourself for once?” Mit-Sun asked, looking up from her book.
“Yes, I am. Mama, you’re fine to spend time with and all, but it’s constantly, day after day and after what you did yesterday I’m still mad at you! So, I figured since Choungetsu hasn’t been bothering me I both owed him and he would be the least annoying to spend time with.”
“Don’t walk into any suspicious neighborhoods. Or go adventuring across Bledger on your own.” Mit-Sun said with narrowed eyes.
“I might not do either of those things but you won’t stop my path! Let’s go, Choungetsu!”
“What does that mean?” Mit-Sun asked, though she got no response as La-Iin and Choungetsu head outside right afterwards.
“It’s good that you’re stupid, Choungetsu. You’re the best dog to keep a secret for me.”
Choungetsu didn’t respond. He walked ahead cheerfully, his tongue lolling.
La-Iin found that it was often after Uil-Cur came up that she had a desire to see San-Kyung not long afterwards. This time was no exception, though she had some concerns about her plan for what to do.
‘Fer-Shi finding out I did one of our special things with someone else is one thing, but will there even be an incident for her to find out about?’
La-Iin had her doubts that San-Kyung would agree to act out a Makeshire play script for more reasons than one–the primary one being that San-Kyung generally seemed to dislike doing far more things than she did.
“It’s because he’s a teenager!” She could hear Fer-Shi saying those words, but she knew there was another explanation, simply that it was in San-Kyung’s nature.
Still, she was desperate both to see San-Kyung and to see him acting out the play script and could find no other excuse for going to visit him. She had stewed on the idea until walking outside with Choungetsu, but once she was outside she was certain she knew what her best chance at having him accept once.
‘I really am just going to have to swallow my pride and ask rival-boy for help.’
The idea disgusted her, but the thought of having her wish fulfilled was more pleasant than the disgust she felt from the former. With that in mind, she thought back on the path she had taken in the past to Dosa-Mina’s house, then ran ahead of Choungetsu, who was hot on her heels and eventually overtook her; after that point, she let him take the lead, only pulling him back when he tried to send her down the wrong path.

***

On the way to the neighborhood, La-Iin, Choungetsu, and Dosa-Mina were silent, though La-Iin scoffed at Choungetsu when he would stop to sniff something or for a quick bathroom break. Only once they entered the neighborhood did Dosa-Mina speak.
“What’s it like, having a dog?”
“Don’t talk to me.”
“I was just curious.”
“Aren’t you basically part dog?”
“Part Werewolf, La-Iin. Some Werewolves might act dog-ish, but that’s just their personality. We’re descended from wolves, not dogs.”
Dosa-Mina knocked on the door to the Molshei house. Unsettled, La-Iin opted to stand outside the line of sight of the door.
She gave a sigh of relief when she noticed that Del-Kyuus had answered the door.
“Hello? Oh, hello, Dosa-Mina! Are you here to see San-Kyung?”
“Yeah, I wanted to ask him if he was up for doing something. It’s perfectly innocent though, Mrs. Molshei.”
Del-Kyuus gave a wry smile. “What made you think I thought it wasn’t?”
“That’s just how you are sometimes, Mrs. Molshei!”
“Well, I’ll ask him if he’s up for it, but he’s busy doing his Summer homework right now.”
Dosa-Mina slapped his forehead. “He’s got a head start, then…”
“Ah, don’t worry. School doesn’t start again until September, right? You have time to catch up! In the meantime, would you like to come inside?”
“Nah, I think I’ll wait out here. Thanks, Mrs. Molshei!”
Del-Kyuus nodded and head back inside.
“He’s doing his homework?”
“I’d be surprised too, but it’s like San-Kyung to do that. He doesn’t have much to do most of the time. Makes it easy to get him for something.”
“He really does spend a lot of his time doing nothing, doesn’t he?”
“Oh, he doesn’t spend it doing nothing.”
“Does he fantasize?”
Dosa-Mina shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. If he does he doesn’t share those fantasies with me. But he mostly preoccupies himself with things he has to do. So sometimes he does errands for his parents or chores around the house, things like that just to keep himself preoccupied.”
“Hm…”
“I think your dog likes the way I smell,” Dosa-Mina said, glancing at Choungetsu.
“He likes the way San-Kyung smells better. And I mean this legitimately.”
“How does he know what San-Kyung smells like?”
Having begun to talk among each other about mundane topics, both La-Iin and Dosa-Mina almost failed to notice San-Kyung come outside.
“And besides, I don’t think you should let–oh, hello, San-Kyung! It’s good to see you.” He walked over to him and hugged him. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“It’s good to see you too, but it’s too sweaty for your affection,” he said, gently pushing Dosa-Mina away. “Mom told me it was you at the door. She didn’t mention La-Iin.”
“For all her bluster I think La-Iin is more wary around strangers than you are! The stranger-danger mentality probably would be stronger in a seven-year-old than a sixteen-year-old anyway.”
“Hey! San-Kyung’s Mama just reeks of goody-goody, that’s all. She’s nothing like you, and it disgusts me.”
“You knew that already. Besides, haven’t you complained about your own mother being good?”
“At least she has a jackass factor.”
“Jackass factor?” Dosa-Mina questioned.
“What are you two here for anyway?” Before Dosa-Mina could respond, an unreadable look crossed San-Kyung’s face. “You’re not here to recreate that date from last year, are you?”
“No way. That was fun but I’m not looking to do it again anytime soon, especially not with how annoying La-Iin’s been lately.”
“Try looking in a mirror, rival-boy.”
Choungetsu walked up to San-Kyung and began to sniff him intensely. “And you brought your dog, too…” He groaned.
“You know, being caught up in the moment of there being more people here than you expected distracted me. We’re here because there’s something I want you to do.”
“What’s that? And what does La-Iin and her dog have to do with it?”
“I had to bring Choungetsu or else Mama wouldn’t let me go.”
“You could sort of say it was her idea…she provided the supplies we needed. San-Kyung, how’d you like to do a play?”
“No.”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung, it might be fun.”
“No. I have better things to do with my time.”
“Do you really?” La-Iin asked. “Or are you just going to keep doing your homework until it’s done and then do chores and errands for your parents!? What sort of future world ruler does that with his time!?”
San-Kyung was surprised to see that La-Iin’s wings were flapping rapidly.
“Sorry. I kind of told her you spend a lot of time doing…well, that.”
“So? Why should I do this stupid play? Let me guess, it’s some romance and La-Iin wants to play one role in the couple and for me to play the other.”
“Actually it’s a violent play about Sirens. I actually was considering bringing Varinis et Sol-Kiut, but I knew you wouldn’t go along with it.”
“Aw, just give it a shot, San-Kyung. We could only do one act. I don’t know much about Makeshire’s plays but I’m sure one act isn’t three hours.”
“Three hours is the full length of some of his plays. But not one act.”
“What has you two so desperate?”
“We want to see you act.” Was the response both of them gave.
“This play has lots of evil roles! You get to do violent things! But you also have to sing.”
“Remember when we were younger we used to act out violent scenarios? Come on, it’ll be just like that, except you kind of have to follow a script.”
San-Kyung had begun to look uncertain.
“Aw, come on.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine. I’ll do it. You have a point that I don’t have much to do. But I’m not doing any good role.”
“I told you, this play has lots of evil roles. So long as you’re one of the Sirens you’ll be okay.”
“Aren’t Sirens usually female in fiction?”
“Yes. That’s the case here too. But that’s where modification comes in!”
San-Kyung looked uncertain. ‘Fer-Shi would be so mad if she found out I was doing this with San-Kyung. I’ll just have to act out another play with her instead!’

“‘What you fail to realize, fair Lien, is for the world of Sirens, the rules are doled differently. All the rules are that survival of the species is key. Accept this, escape it, but do not try to change it! Your methods of survival vary from ours, Lien, and that I will grant respect, but oppose me and I shall make of you my next meal. I am, after all, a lover of rabbit’s meat…'”
La-Iin had expected to enjoy watching San-Kyung act, though she had been concerned about his acting ability. Soon enough she found that there was no need to be concerned, all except for the behavior of one Siren towards a character of Dosa-Mina’s.
‘I wish I had a camera. I would record all this. I’d let rival-boy do all the other parts if I could just record this.’
“La-Iin, it’s your line next,” Dosa-Mina said.
La-Iin snapped out of her daydreams and began to read the script. “‘Mes-Iri, why spare the rabbit at all? Why give him a chance at life when his would better benefit our own kind?'”
“‘It’s simple enough, isn’t it, to have just killed him then and there with my song as opposed to letting him go, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as the spoils. So I anxiously await Lien’s return to our island. I’ll chase him for as long as need be until the moment his sanity is shattered, till the moment I see its effects reflected upon his physical body. Any names you might call me as a result are acceptable, Niciera. Young Sirens are told not to play with their prey. But where’s the harm in playing with it before it is, officially, prey?'”
What made her even more anxious was hearing San-Kyung’s singing voice. Though she knew a song for his character Mes-Iri was in the script, it did not occur until the end of the first act. Perhaps because she was both enjoying her time and feeling anxious, it felt like it had both taken forever and just a short time before they reached the end of the script.

Watch the empire front of me fall,
watch the place so civilized show all its flaws
Say your prayers just one more night
For tomorrow, the worth of those prayers will be lesser than nothing!

After the song, San-Kyung lowered his head as if embarrassed.
“Can’t we do another act!? Please!?”
“No!” San-Kyung snapped. Lifting his head up briefly, La-Iin felt she could see him blushing. His yell caught Choungetsu’s attention, and he turned away from the butterfly he was watching to bark at San-Kyung.
“You did pretty good there, San-Kyung. You seemed like you were getting pretty into it.”
“Well, it was nice to do that and all, but I should probably finish my homework.”
“We have until Septemberrrr!” La-Iin whined.
“Yeah, well, I’d rather get it over with early!”
“Don’t worry, San-Kyung, I won’t bother you anymore. But there is something I’ve been meaning to ask. Watching you act and after having a conversation with La-Iin earlier, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”
“What now?”
“You seemed to enjoy doing that a bit. I’ve seen you enjoy doing certain things but you don’t do them often. You don’t even go out and use your car as much as you used to.”
“…”
“The car’s another thing, but San-Kyung, if there are things you enjoy don’t just bury them because they came about because of the world or people. You might not like either, but where’s the sin in enjoying them? Well, rather, if there is a sin why aren’t you embracing that?”
“I draw, San-Kyung. Creative outlets can be good for evil.”
“What makes you think I enjoy any of this stuff?”
“Just watching you. Besides, it’s a waste. Your acting’s good and all, but I’ve seen you dance. You have a natural talent for that. I’m not saying give up on your main goals, but what’s wrong with having a hobby?”
San-Kyung blinked. “I think you’re misunderstanding.”
“If you don’t want to talk about this in front of San-Kyung then we can talk over the phone later. But really, San-Kyung, if you enjoy other things don’t just stop yourself from doing them. Go on and do them. But, well, that’s enough for now, and I should be getting home. It was fun you two! I’ll be seeing you!” He gave San-Kyung a kiss on the cheek, waved, then began to head home.
“I hate to agree with rival-boy, but creative outlets really are good for evil. But you do your homework, then. Choungetsu looks like he’s getting antsy.” She pulled on Choungetsu’s leash.
“I’ll show you, San-Kyung. Sooner or later I’ll get you to do the rest of this script! See you!”
She flew off, Choungetsu for once unable to catch up to her. San-Kyung sighed. He head back inside.
“What took you so long?”
“Nothing important. Not really, anyway.”

—–
As he came to the end of his homework, San-Kyung found himself thinking back on La-Iin and Dosa-Mina’s words from earlier.
‘What makes them think I like any of this stuff? Wishful thinking?’ The thought made him let out a sigh. ‘I don’t know about La-Iin, but Dosa-Mina knows me well. Maybe he’s seeing something I’m not seeing in myself…’

7.553.Moments with Grepeta

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 553
“Moments with Grepeta”

“Eul-Bok, before we go, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“I don’t mind. Fire away, Father!”
“What made you want to visit Apeta today? Is it because we’ve had to stay so down-low recently?”
“Well, you could say that’s part of it. We’ve spent most of our time around each other lately and the only other people who came here recently were La-Iin and Bes-Isa, and I don’t know about you but I can’t stand them!”
“They’re my allies, Eul-Bok. I’m fond of them. You know this.”
“Anyway, Grepeta is someone I actually like who we can go and see. And besides, maybe it hasn’t been the longest time, but it’s been a good amount of time since those people were by the neighborhood. I think we’ll be safe.”
Sale-Dessu seemed uncertain. “Well, hopefully Apeta will be willing to see us,” he said with a sigh. “Hold on tight, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok listened closely as Sale-Dessu canted the teleportation spell. ‘Father really is so powerful. It’s almost a shame that he’s so shy. If he wanted to, he could do great things for the scientific world, figuring out all sorts of things…even how to make me autonomous. But at the same time, it wouldn’t have been very smart to reveal that, would it have been? And anyway, I like my life the way it is!’
While lost in thought he hadn’t noticed that they had already made it to Eir-Tyuj’s house. He only snapped out of his thoughts when he heard her voice.
“–Eul-Bok seems awfully lost in thought.”
“I wonder what he’s thinking about?” Sale-Dessu said, glancing at Eul-Bok. “We’re here, Eul-Bok.”
“Oh! Hello, Grepeta!”
“Hello, Eul-Bok. How have you been?”
“Fine, mostly. I got a little injury the other day, but it was nothing big! Father patched it up quickly!”
“And I’m sure he used his powers for this?” Questioned Eir-Tyuj with a mischievous glance in his direction. Sale-Dessu scratched the back of his neck.
“Hey, Father, what are you going to do now that we’re here, anyway?”
“Oh, actually since we’re here, I wanted to ask if I could take a look at some of your books, Apeta. You have some that I don’t own.”
“Certainly, Sale-Dessu. I myself barely have any use for them anymore. In my old age my sight’s started to fail me as well. So if you feel so inclined as to take one, do not hesitate to do so.”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “Thank you, Apeta. But I don’t think I’ll be taking any of your books. Just looking around.”
He wandered off towards her bookshelf, and as he did Eir-Tyuj turned her attention to Eul-Bok.
“So, my great-grandson,” Eir-Tyuj started, before wrinkling her nose. “No, that’s too much of a mouthful. Eul-Bok! What is it you wanted to visit me for?”
“Well, um, first off I just wanted to see you,” he said shyly. “I don’t have many people to talk to aside from Father. And it’s been fine staying inside all the time. But maybe because we’ve had to stay inside, I feel a bit antsy lately.”
“A feeling I can understand,” she sighed.
“That and, well…don’t tell Father, and you probably knew this already, but it’s going to be his birthday soon. Last year I couldn’t do anything for him because I was still just a normal V-Puppet. But this year, things are going to be different. Father is very powerful, and as his son I think I might be able to achieve a similar level of power. If I can do that then I can do anything I want for him.”
Eir-Tyuj smiled. “A noble goal. I really do love your fire, Eul-Bok. I wish Sale-Dessu had shared in your enthusiasm when he was a boy.”
“I know you taught me a few things before in the past, but I want to learn more. I don’t care how hard you push me. I’m aiming to do my best, and I could use a hard nudge or two!”
“I imagine you don’t get many of those from my grandson!” She cackled. “Very well then. I’ll teach you some more. Come with me, away from Sale-Dessu. He’ll only get nosy and inquire about what we’re doing.”
Eul-Bok smiled. ‘Grepeta’s the best!’

***

“Eul-Bok, if you’re looking to transform an item of this size, the best thing to do is to make sure it functions like the item you’re transforming,” Eir-Tyuj chided. “A pear is no good if it tastes like wood, and a blanket is useless if it’s completely hard. What need would Sale-Dessu have for a blanket anyway? The boy’s much more interested in spell books at least as far as our last interactions have shown me.”
Eul-Bok sighed. ‘Grepeta’s great, but she really is harsh when she gets down to it.’ Eir-Tyuj’s criticisms hadn’t gotten him down, however–instead they only prompted him to try harder and show her otherwise. He focused on the stiff blanket and attempted to change it further. The blanket began to flop. Eir-Tyuj felt it.
“Hm…it’s gained some softness but it still isn’t perfect. But this is definitely better than this board blanket.”
“You know, you’re so critical but I bet you had trouble using your powers at first.”
“That I did. It isn’t many a Witch or Warlock who is born with a natural talent for their powers; most need to learn the proper skills. That being said I don’t appreciate your little snide comment. That might be the case but it was several decades ago.”
“I know. I’m just saying.” He felt the blanket himself. ‘Definitely too hard…’ “Hey, Grepeta, I know we have to get back to practice and all, but I want to hear a little bit about you. Especially since you’ve lived for so long.”
“Hm? Such as what? Are you wanting to hear embarrassing childhood stories about your father? Tsk, how shameful.”
“No, nothing like that! I meant more about you. You’re the only relative I have aside from Father, so I want to know more. Also, I’d like to concentrate without worrying about your criticism for once.”
“You asked for it, Eul-Bok, and I deliver criticism without cutting corners. But if you want to hear about me first, then I will tell you. I was part of a family of four. I had one younger sister who went on to have her own family in some Witch society far off in Wiencei or someplace. I haven’t seen her in years, and I can’t exactly do so now. I am mother to three daughters, one deceased–that’s your father’s mother–and the others whereabouts unknown. Except for you and Sale-Dessu, I’m not exactly inclined to the location of my non-deceased relatives. I know my parents and my daughter Maie-Jussa are one with the earth now but I’m not sure of many others.”
“That must be hard, losing your family like that. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Father.”
“Move on, of course. Easier said than done, but it will occur naturally. I am of the belief that the spirits of my loved ones watch over me even today. I’m certain they would love to speak with me once again, and I feel likewise…”
A far-off look entered Eir-Tyuj’s eyes, but when she blinked it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. “In any event, it isn’t anything you’ll have to deal with anytime soon hopefully, and with Sale-Dessu taking so many precautions I’m not worried about it in the slightest.”
“Yeah, I think we’ll be fine for now.” Listening closely for what Eir-Tyuj might say next, Eul-Bok returned his focus to the blanket and tried to imagine its texture better. ‘I know I’ve felt a nice, soft, knitted texture like this before…hm….’
“I was an avid studier of powers and somewhat distanced myself from my family at times. Mostly my family of origin rather than the family I built with my late husband. Because I studied so strictly and so often I became rather skilled. My skills earned me ire not just because of jealousy but also in the way I practiced some of those skills. I regret some of what I did, though certain people make me feel as though I shouldn’t. And I helped raise Sale-Dessu during his childhood because Maie-Jussa fell into a difficult situation and had not the experience to deal with all that was going on.”
“Mmnh…”
Eul-Bok opened his eyes. Eir-Tyuj was heading over to the blanket to feel it. “That’s amazing of you, Grepeta. That you could deal with all of this…is that why you ended up so strict?”
“Certainly not! If my sister still lives out there, should you ever encounter her she knew me before I had any brushes with death. She could tell you, I have been strict my entire life. It’s necessary for success in my opinion. A lackadaisical attitude will lead you to not take your work seriously. Even if you enjoy it, you do need a modicum of seriousness in my opinion.”
Eul-Bok felt like his head was spinning. ‘Listening to Grepeta talk can be like looking through a wordy book…’
Eir-Tyuj stroked the blanket. “Very good, Eul-Bok. This is some quick improvement. You’re fast to overcome mistakes, hm?”
“Am I?”
She nodded. “I think you have a talent for it. You can recover from mistakes easier, perhaps because you’re stubborn like I am,” she said playfully. “It’s a good skill, and the stubbornness helps as well. Stubbornness can be an impediment, but I’d certainly say otherwise when it comes to the study of powers. It does keep you working, though you’ll need breaks.”
“My body’s artificial, Grepeta! I won’t get strained like you and Father.”
“I’m sure you’ll become strained another way,” Eir-Tyuj said with a roll of her eyes. “You have a mind, don’t you?”
Eul-bok felt the blanket. It had exactly the texture he was looking for. “It’s good that I can recover, but I really need to find something Father would like. I’m sure he’d appreciate the blanket, but…”
“Sale-Dessu’s simple to please, Eul-Bok. He’s happy when people show him a gesture of kindness. Anything you do for him will likely please him even if you present him with a wooden blanket.”
Eul-Bok narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t do that!”
“Sure you wouldn’t. But you must understand how people have treated him. When I knew him as a young child beforehand he was timid, but this level of shyness and caution is new. He might be used to your displays of kindness but it will touch him all the same.”
“I guess so…”
“Still, if you want to show him that you’ve improved or to give him a quality item, you need improvement. And I have the perfect idea to deal with this, and that is to practice as hard as you can manage. I have plenty of stray items for you to try out if you’d like to continue on.”
“Of course I want to!”
“Then now is the time to set to work!”

Eul-Bok transformed after that item after item, changing wood into wordless books and useless baubles, or tissue into clothing or accessories. Eir-Tyuj graded him harshly, but each time she had a severe criticism it only served to make him want to try harder. When she would give him a kind compliment, he would work harder as well so that the compliments would become consistent.
He tripped up a few times as he worked, however, lost in thought about his conversation with Eir-Tyuj.
‘Grepeta and Father really are strong people to have dealt with all they’ve gone through. This whole thing with those mysterious people is the worst thing I’ve had to do. They might as well barely trust people with how they’ve been treated. And yet they’re still so strong. I have to work harder!’
Glimpsing at Eir-Tyuj out the corner of his eye, he smiled. ‘Grepeta really is great. She’s so smart. I’m glad she’s a part of my life.’
Eul-Bok didn’t stop transforming items until he was thoroughly exhausted. But that would prove not to be the end of his practice, for once he had recovered, Eir-Tyuj immediately set to having him practice spell recitations.
‘She really is overly strict, though.’ But it only pushed him to want to try harder.

—–
“I’m sorry if we overstayed our welcome, Apeta.”
“Not at all. I got in some valuable bonding time with Eul-Bok.” She stroked him on the head. “You have a great boy with a lot of potential, Sale-Dessu. He might as well have had potential since the moment he became autonomous. Eul-Bok will be an amazing Warlock.”
“Geez, that’s pretty contrary to everything you said while I was practicing.”
“I am like that. Ask Sale-Dessu. But yes, keep him at your side, Sale-Dessu. I think he is good for you. He will give you more confidence. He can inspire a change in you, I feel it. Bringing him to life was a great decision as was making him autonomous. So remain close, you two. You’ll need it especially when I’m…”
Eir-Tyuj’s expression became far-off once again.
“When you’re what?” Eul-Bok asked.
“Never mind.”
“I know all that, Apeta. Eul-Bok’s already inspired me in so many ways. Besides, he is my son, even if we’re not related by blood. And I wouldn’t just turn away my son. I’ll keep working hard for my sake and his. After all…I’m a father now, I suppose.”
“Strange to hear that from your lips,” Eir-Tyuj said quietly. “Well, I look forward to seeing you boys again. And keep up the good work, both of you. But especially you, Eul-Bok. I expect to see some significant improvement next time we meet!”
“Oh, I won’t disappoint you,” he said. “Goodbye for now, Grepeta!”
“Be seeing you, my dear boys.”

2.548.The Contents of a Shell

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 548
“The Contents of a Shell”

Sale-Dessu closely examined Eul-Bok, checking him over in all sorts of places. Eul-Bok watched him as he did, curiosity in his gaze. La-Iin and Bes-Isa sat on the sidelines, confused for the most part about what was going on.
“I don’t get any of this. What exactly is the point of you examining him?”
“I thought I told you before. As far as we know, Eul-Bok is the first V-Puppet who has become autonomous. He’s been fine for almost six months, so I’m sure nothing bad will happen, but I still would rather keep a close eye on him. It helps me understand more too.”
“I’m used to it by now. It was weird at first, but now it’s just a part of my life.”
“Alright, Eul-Bok, you’re about done,” Sale-Dessu said, backing away from him. “La-Iin, you said you wanted to see the books I used for reference on that paper?”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure? They’re pretty long and wordy books and I can’t give you all of them. Some of them are in the Warlock language.”
“I can read Vaelis though. And worst comes to worse I guess I always have Mama. Or Dami! He’d be even better!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “Well, even if you need help I’ll go and get those books for you. But where did I put them…I know they’re in the book room, but…”
“Hey, Warlocky, before you go.”
“Hm?”
“There’s something I’ve been wondering about little boy Eul-Bok here. Namely, he’s autonomous, but you never did tell us what you put into him to make him alive. Obviously if you used the power of V-Puppetry, he wouldn’t be able to move on his own, so what exactly did you use to help make him autonomous?”
Sale-Dessu paled. La-Iin blinked. “It–it’s complicated, Bes-Isa. I’d have to explain it to you later. Let me go get those books for La-Iin now. And if you have any other questions, feel free to ask those!”
Sale-Dessu left the room at a faster pace than normal. La-Iin, Bes-Isa and Eul-Bok watched him off.
“Well that was awfully suspicious.”
“I know. It just makes me really curious.” La-Iin turned to Eul-Bok. “Do you know what Sale-Dessu put in you to make you live?”
“He never told me. Well, I know a few things, but Father can make all sorts of things, so I was never suspicious about it. If he needed something big he could make it out of just a tissue!”
“Like the tissue in a real person’s body…but even if he could do that, who’s to say it would actually work?”
“Huh?”
“It doesn’t make much sense to me still how you’re alive and moving around whether he made you organs or got them through some nefarious way. And I’ve been curious about that for a while. Someday what you have might be what I have.”
Eul-Bok glared. “No way are you looking the same as me!”
“I never said that! I wouldn’t want that either!”
“I’m curious too. But not for the reason Bes-Isa is. I just want to know. Let me see…”
La-Iin approached Eul-Bok, who backed away from her. “Hey, what are you doing? Don’t try and fight me! I have Warlock powers, a-and I’m a little bit taller than you!”
“But that’s how tall you’re going to stay, unlike me,” La-Iin said, puffing out her chest with pride. “Besides, it’s nothing bad I’m going to do to you, eh heh heh…you should be more worried about what Bes-Isa might do to you, and she isn’t autonomous.”
“The day that I am, though…”
“So come here!”
La-Iin flew at Eul-Bok, mouth open wide. Eul-Bok tried to both move out the way and begin to cant the teleportation spell, but La-Iin knocked him down before he could do either. Stunned, he could only lay there in horror as La-Iin brought her fangs close to his neck. When her fangs met his neck, however, they crashed against wood and La-Iin recoiled, covering her mouth and muttering a curse.
“Ha ha! You forgot that I’m not fleshy like you!”
La-Iin growled. “Well, just because that doesn’t work doesn’t mean we can’t find out what’s inside of you a different way! I don’t think your blood would taste all that good anyway.”
“Says you!”
“That’s not really something you should be indignant about, you know.”
“Let’s see.” La-Iin lifted up Eul-Bok’s robes, and he squealed. “I don’t see any sort of compartment…”
“There’s actually one right here. You can see it if you look real close. But it’s one of those sealed shut compartments that you might see on a well-built toy. If anyone could open it it would be Sale-Dessu and not us.”
“Damn.”
“Why do you girls want to know what’s inside me so bad anyway!? You don’t like me, why should you care!?”
“Bes-Isa gave you an answer already. But here’s mine. Eul-Bok, do you know what’s inside us?”
“You’ve got organs, and you’ve got stuffing.”
“Precisely. Just because I don’t care for you doesn’t mean I can’t still be curious. Especially if the answer is violent. I like violence.”
“You’re so one-dimensional…”
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “That’s what you think, puppet-boy, but if I was one-dimensional my every move would be predictable!”
She flew up behind him and lifted him above the ground. Eul-Bok began to cry. “Please let me down! I–I’m begging!” He reached for his wand. “And if you don’t do it peacefully, I’m gonna have to use force on you!”
“Ooh, he’s threatening you, La-Iin. Either he likes you or he’s really scared.”
“San-Kyung is the only one for me. Besides, he’s probably scared. Okay, Eul-Bok, I’ll let you down.”
She swooped down to the ground, and Eul-Bok let out another cry as she slammed him onto the couch and beckoned Bes-Isa close to her. She maneuvered Bes-Isa across his body.
“What do you see, Bes-Isa? Anything interesting? No other compartments, I bet, but anything good?”
“I don’t see anything else, and I also don’t appreciate you slamming me against Eul-Bok. If I ever become autonomous, you’ll pay for that physically and with vuyong. But aside from that, when you slammed me against him, I thought of something. This kid’s made out of wood. You’ve got some strength to you. With a little force you could probably bust him up a little without Sale-Dessu noticing and banning us from here forever.”
Eul-Bok shrieked and began to struggle under La-Iin’s grasp.
“You’re right, Bes-Isa, I do have a lot of strength. And I like that option. Even if Sale-Dessu notices and does ban me, I have a backup plan for that!”
She bit into her arm and held Eul-Bok down as she transformed. Though he struggled before, during and after the transformation, the further along she got the easier it was to restrain him, and by the time her transformation was complete Eul-Bok’s struggles felt weak to her.
“Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I never had any intention of killing you–my ally wouldn’t forgive me if I did. So sit tight and rest assured in the knowledge that this all for the sake of curiosity!”
She raised a fist and was ready to bring it down on Eul-Bok’s chest when a familiar voice hit her ears.
“Is everything alright? I heard Eul-Bok cry out and–Eul-Bok!”
Sale-Dessu ran to Eul-Bok’s side and forced La-Iin off of him, then hugged him close.
“What happened, Eul-Bok!?”
“They–they tried to break me opeeeeen!” He cried. “I was so scared! I thought she was really gonna do it!”
“Why did you do that, La-Iin?”
“You wouldn’t tell Bes-Isa what’s inside of Eul-Bok, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. If he made it easy I wouldn’t have had to knock him down like that.”
Sale-Dessu narrowed his eyes. “There are no excuses for what you did, La-Iin, and that was an excuse. I told you, it’s too complicated to explain what’s inside of Eul-Bok. I was going to tell you someday, but what you did here makes me think I should never tell you.”
“Are we banned from your house now?”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “No, but I don’t want you here any more today. Go home, La-Iin.”
“Alright. But don’t forget this, Sale-Dessu: we’re allies. One way or another I’ll get the knowledge of what’s inside of Eul-Bok out of you someday.”
La-Iin and Bes-Isa head for the door.
“Thank you, Father…I was so scared…”
“It’s alright, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu soothed. “I would never let any harm come to you.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “You’re the greatest Father, Father. I bet if you had a real kid that’d be true too.”
“You are my real child, Eul-Bok.” He stroked his head. “I’m sorry that happened to you. Next time I’ll make sure to keep a closer eye on La-Iin.”
“Yeah. …hey, speaking of, did you ever give her those books?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “Oh sh–oh, I forgot to…”
Eul-Bok chuckled. “It’s alright. She didn’t deserve them anyway.”
“Ah, I’ll get them to her some other day…

—–
Later on that night, while in the midst of practicing a spell, Eul-Bok tripped and fell over.
“Oof! Aw man, that really hurt…”
His hand in particular felt the most painful, so he checked his hand out of sheer instict. Blood was dripping down his arm, and inside of the crack in his hand he caught a glimmer of what looked like muscle and bone. He shuddered.
‘Ahaha, Father just made those so I could live…’ Even feeling assured in that fact didn’t help the disturbed feeling he got from the sight in the first place.
“Um, Father? I hurt myself a little…”