13.651.Battle Between Breeds

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 651
“Battle Between Breeds”

When she arrived home from the Astineth house, the first thing La-Iin did was let Choungetsu out of her closet. She thought the action would go unnoticed, and so was startled to see that Mit-Sun was standing outside her bedroom with a curious expression on her face.
“Why was Choungetsu in your room? I thought you took him on a walk.”
“I did. It’s not my fault he followed me upstairs. I didn’t even notice.”
“Hm.” Mit-Sun looked as if she didn’t quite believe her, but didn’t press the subject any further.

Sale-Dessu’s blood still in her system, La-Iin studied up on as many Witch resources as she could find in the house. She hoped that the powers did not kick in until she knew enough in order for them to be helpful. ‘I doubt I’ll be welcome at the Astineth house again anytime soon.’
To check, La-Iin kept a thin stick with her at all times, waving it around on occasion. Nothing happened for a while, until quite late at night. Mit-Sun was upstairs preparing for bed and the stick gave off a small spark.
La-Iin was intrigued, but frustrated due to the time. After Mit-Sun had put her to bed, and once she had gone to bed herself, La-Iin snuck out, Bes-Isa in tow, and head to the kitchen. She put a pot on the stove and filled it with liquid and some supplies around the house–that and a small amount of the potion she had stolen from Sale-Dessu.
She didn’t know much about potion-making, but she was going to try. The “potion” began to bubble, and La-Iin waved the stick above it. While it was bubbling, impatient she went to reference the books that mentioned anything about Witches. That information made her pay closer attention to the “potion”. She waved the stick over it, and the liquid started to become a strange color.
Once she felt it was done, she let it cool off and put it into a container and stuck it in the fridge. When she closed the fridge, she turned and nearly jumped when she saw Mit-Sun standing behind her.
“What are you doing up so late?” She asked. “And were you baking something?”
“No. Just messing with the stove.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “Uh-huh. Get back to bed and don’t do things that could start fires!”
La-Iin huffed, spread her wings and head back to bed, clutching Bes-Isa and the stolen potion. She was frustrated, but was happy that she had at least finished the potion.
‘I might not know much about Witch powers, but I know that potion is a good one. After all, it should be a…’

***

The next day, La-Iin felt restless. Her plans felt like they were going wild in her head. When she picked up the stick, it still sparked.
She felt incredibly powerful.
Restraining her feelings had been difficult, especially around Mit-Sun who still watched her with a curious expression. Occasionally she couldn’t keep from making a comment that frustrated her mother.
“When I rule the world, you won’t be allowed to make crappy breakfasts, you know.”
Mit-Sun had rolled her eyes in response.
The restless and powerful feeling had continued even after she left the house, and on the path to school Fer-Shi was quick to notice that her friend was giggling to herself.
“La-Iin? Are you okay?”
“Better,” she said. “Don’t worry, Fer-Shi. It annoys me when you worry. Besides, I have a feeling that soon, I’m going to have a bunch to be happy about.”
“Huh?”
“You’ll see soon enough,” she said with a smirk. “But for now, just don’t worry about me.”
“That makes me more worried…but I guess if something good is gonna happen, I shouldn’t be…but wait, is this good regular or evil good?”
“Now that’s something you’ll have to find out for yourself, isn’t it?”

Students and faculty were also quick to notice La-Iin’s odd behavior. Even to those who had noticed how she was acting recently, it was still strange.
But even despite this, La-Iin spent most of her time lost in thought. Even at the recess area she mostly stayed to herself; Shuu-Kena found that nothing she said got through to her, and after she would only respond vaguely to Fer-Shi’s suggestions for games, she went off to play with Shan-Zetsu and some Class B students instead.
It was only once classes were done for the day that she really talked to anyone else.
“You two.”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina blinked at her.
“I want to talk to you two about something. Come with me.”
“Why should we?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“Because I know where you live.”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina glanced at each other.
“Do you have anything better to do?” La-Iin asked.
“Good point. What about you, San-Kyung?”
“I guess not…” He sighed. “Fine, but if this ends up being a waste of my time, I’m going home.”
With a confident smirk, La-Iin left the classroom ahead of the two boys. They stayed close behind her as she walked through the hallway and along the path that led out of Malicerie.
She led them away from Malicerie and searched around for a while.
“Do you think she knows where she’s going?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“No.”
“I heard that.” La-Iin glared at them, then head over to an empty field. “Here.”
Dosa-Mina crossed his arms. “So what’s this about, little Vampire girl?”
“I thought you were done calling me that.”
“Some things never go away completely,” he said with a smug smile. La-Iin huffed.
“I want to talk to both of you. Individually, then together.”
The two blinked at each other. “San-Kyung first.”
“What do you want?”
“Are you still planning to rule the world?”
“Why do you ask?”
“…I just think you’ll get an opening really soon.”
“You know nothing about my plans.”
“Maybe. Okay, maybe the world is going a little far, but I think a good opportunity is coming up for you and me. And I just wanted to tell you in advance, so you could be prepared when the day comes. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you again when that happens.”
San-Kyung scoffed.
“You scoff now, but you’ll see. And besides, it’s October. The best time to take advantage of a chance like that, right?”
She winked and walked over to Dosa-Mina.
“What do you want from me?”
She glared. “To ask about a certain nightmare.”
“Huh?”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you and your fantasies about my suicide.”
Dosa-Mina flinched.
“I don’t understand you, rival-boy. You hated your species. Yet now you’re flaunting it. You apparently have nightmares about me shooting myself. But there’s no explanation for it. And you know I can’t stand you, yet you don’t feel the same way about me.”
“Who says?”
“You’re weird to me. You and I remind me of my Mama and Dami. Mama so obviously hates Dami, yet he keeps being nice to her even though she’s such a jerk.”
“So you’re saying our relationship reminds you of exes? Sicko.”
La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. “That’s not what I meant! I can’t stand you, but I think you’ll be helpful.”
“Huh?”
She turned away from him. “And now, for both of you…I want to fight you two!”
“…what.”
“Where’s this coming from?”
“I want to see what you two can do with San-Kyung being in October and you not holding back. Except for your singing. That’s just a cheat.”
“You probably wouldn’t call it a cheat if you could use it!” Dosa-Mina huffed.
“I want to see the extent of what you do!”
“So basically you’re saying you want to die,” San-Kyung said.
“Personally, I’d rather not be convicted of murder.”
“Don’t kill me then,” La-Iin said. “But it doesn’t matter if you two resist. I’ll take that as an opening!”
La-Iin pulled out the stick and pointed it at them. It still sparked, and both boys flinched.
“What the–!? That’s a Witch power!”
San-Kyung seemed to take this as incentive enough, for he rose vines from the ground and tried to tie her up with them. La-Iin flew past them and bit into her arm. When her transformation completed, she flew at Dosa-Mina and bit into his neck, but she was pushed off by Dosa-Mina before she could suck any of his blood.
“How do you have a Witch power?”
“This is a fight, not a time for questions.” La-Iin pulled out the stick and pointed it at Dosa-Mina. It only sparked slightly, and then San-Kyung’s vine grabbed her ankle. La-Iin freed her ankle with the stick, then flew at San-Kyung, hitting him with the stick. She tried to suck his blood as well, but he struck his hands and she flew a distance away from them.
While she was away, La-Iin noticed that San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina had begun to levitate. “Taking the coward’s way out!?” She flew at them and headbutted Dosa-Mina in the stomach, then landed on the ground and pointed the stick in their direction.
She tried to remember an offensive spell, and once she did she pointed the stick in their direction and canted; but the wand only responded by sparking slightly before dying out altogether. La-Iin tried again, but the same thing happened.
“No!”
‘It doesn’t matter! I can still attack them! I can’t stop here.’
“Should we leave while she’s fumbling, or do you want to keep going?”
“She said she wanted to see what we could do. Why not show her?”
“Oh dear,” Dosa-Mina sighed. San-Kyung brought them to the ground, then, Dosa-Mina grabbed him and jumped into the air.
“Hm!?”
San-Kyung lifted his right hand and bit hard into the skin on his palm. A massive amount of flames engulfed his hand. At one of the highest points in Dosa-Mina’s jump, he fired off a beam of fire. La-Iin only barely made it out of the way, but it set a large area nearby her on fire.
“Oh no,” Dosa-Mina said. “We can’t just leave this! It’ll start a forest fire!”
“Yeah, this is too close to home.” San-Kyung glanced over his shoulder. “But now you know the answer. So get out of here.”
La-Iin didn’t move, however. She watched the flames as the two boys tried to stop them, in shock.

—–
When La-Iin arrived home, Mit-Sun noticed that her eyes were wide open and she smelled of smoke.
“La-Iin! Is everything okay!?”
La-Iin walked past Mit-Sun. She thought back on the fight they had, the intensity of San-Kyung’s flamethrower, and a smirk crossed her lips.
Mit-Sun only barely noticed it, but the sight filled her with dread.

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8.646.October Reboot

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 646
“October Reboot”

“It’s finally come to that time again, San-Kyung.”
“Yeah, it has, hasn’t it?”
“Mm-hm. Finally, after all these months, October is here again.”
San-Kyung breathed in. “…it was here a week ago.”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung! You know what I mean. October can properly begin now that I’m feeling a bit better about myself. But it won’t unless you cheer up, too.”
“Hm…” San-Kyung looked uncertain. Dosa-Mina sighed. “Come on. Take a cue from me and smile!”
San-Kyung’s mouth didn’t twitch, although to Dosa-Mina’s relief he didn’t seem angry. “Good enough!”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Still, good enough!” He growled. “Oh, come on, San-Kyung! October is your month! The month where you are most powerful, the month where you make Bledger pay and you still haven’t gotten arrested for it! And besides, this November might be a crapshoot in terms of true forms, but there’s still Operation Reboot~”
San-Kyung blinked. “Yeah, speaking of that. I’ve been looking through that notebook you gave me. Geez, I wish you were a Warlock sometimes.”
“Aha. I don’t need another species to keep track of, thank you very much. I already tend to mistake myself for a Pureblood Normal. And sometimes I forget part of my species!”
“What’s wrong with you?”
Dosa-Mina shrugged. “But anyway, point stands. October is the month where you gain power and start planning for what dastardly way you’re going to scar Bledger next. And it’s also what I want to see.”
San-Kyung smiled. “Finally!”
“Yeah, you’re right. It just hasn’t crossed my mind enough recently. What with the whole species debacle…by the way, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”
“About what?”
“Why you keep coming to school like that. I thought you didn’t like your true form.”
“I don’t. I’m just trying to. And I admit, there’s something a little liberating about not having to hide it anymore. Also I figured it was better than coming to school all depressed. I’d rather people know me as “Dslellular Dosa-Mina, Werewolf-Siren and clingy best friend” than “Dslellular Dosa-Mina, Werewolf-Siren and depressing eleventh-grader”. And it hides my left arm cuts. It was pretty spur of the moment, but I have lots of reasons for doing it.”
“Well, that’s fine. I don’t have any objections. I’m the one who kept asking you to just reveal it already.”
“Yup, you were. Oh, and also, if I’m open about it, people probably won’t think I’m like…Dereni, was it? From Class B. I’d rather not have that sort of reputation, either. Not to mention, people started getting on Lirako’s case after I did this! …okay, I’ll shut up about reasons why. There are just a lot.”
San-Kyung chuckled. Dosa-Mina lowered his head.
“It feels like it’s been so long since I last got this feeling…”
“Is something wrong?”
“No. Actually, it’s great.” Dosa-Mina looked up with a wide smile and leaped at San-Kyung, pulling him close. With a giggle, he said, “I’m definitely cheering up now!”
“Good for you,” San-Kyung grunted. “Now could you let go of me!?”
Dosa-Mina pulled San-Kyung backwards, but let go of him soon after. San-Kyung flailed his arms in an attempt to keep from falling on Dosa-Mina; in his desperation he lifted himself above the bed.
San-Kyung gasped.
“Cool! Looks like your levitation just came in!”
San-Kyung laughed and began to levitate around Dosa-Mina’s room.
“Hey! Don’t break anything!”
San-Kyung continued his levitation for a short while longer before landing on Dosa-Mina’s bed.
“This is how October should be.”
“It’s how it’s gonna be, from here on out. No species bullies, no, um…whatever your problem is–nothing’s gonna stand in the way of our October!”
San-Kyung huffed. “Well, it’s not going to stand in my way, but it’s definitely something I need to think about. As much as I’d like to pretend this October is like all the others, there are some things that changed this year. Namely, you usually accompany me in your true form. This year, that won’t be so easy.”
“Oh…”
“But still! October is my month! I don’t want to waste this one even if things get in my way. There’s always time to think on these things later. I mean my problem, of course. I’ll have to come up with some sort of excuse for you. Guess I should start thinking…”
“How about I wear my hoodie on Halloween? That covers my face pretty good.”
“Yeah, I guess that could work. And then once October’s done, maybe we can finally make some more headway in Operation Reboot.”
“Yeah, um, speaking of that. What did you think about the notes I gave you? Aside from wishing I was a Warlock, I mean?”
“It definitely made me think that I’m going to have to swallow my pride in a worst-case scenario. But then again, it’s not that surprising. After all, I’ve heard what they say about Animated Pumpkins coming about because of Witches.”
“Yeah. …actually, I don’t know if I should say this, but–”
“Did you say something?”
Dosa-Mina blinked. “N-no, it’s nothing. Hey, San-Kyung, since your levitation came in, why don’t we go for a…would you call something like that a stroll? Well, anyway, we could levitate all over Bledger and you could make some cool vine art along the way. That’s what I was thinking.”
“Sounds fine. I would like to do something else with my time aside from talking.” He stood up, stretched, and levitated Dosa-Mina into the air. The two boys head out the house and above Dosa-Mina’s neighborhood. He couldn’t suppress an amused giggle as his neighborhood grew smaller and smaller.
He also couldn’t suppress his uncertainty.
‘That’s really what San-Kyung took away from that, huh? Well, I hope he’s right. I really don’t understand this transformation after all, it seems…but if my assumptions are right, and the power surge needs to be simulated to cause the transformation outside of October…how could you make that permanent? Or, forget that–if drugs don’t seem likely to successfully simulate the transformation, then are we sure that anything will?’
Dosa-Mina sighed. ‘Maybe I’m just looking at this too pessimistic. I hope my impression’s wrong. I don’t want San-Kyung to be sad again…’

—–
“You know what, Riya?”
“What am I supposed to know?”
“Look.”
Orlin-Aesth pointed in the direction of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina. Dosa-Mina was holding tight to a protesting San-Kyung, still in his Werewolf-Siren form.
“Huh?”
“I’m happy. Our son is cheering up, and he’s in his true form!” Orlin-Aesth grinned. “This is too much. I’m too happy!”
He hugged Elai-Riya close. Elai-Riya was tempted to protest herself, but instead, she giggled.
“Stop teasing me!” Dosa-Mina yelled, and in their surprise, they let go of each other.

5.643.Break Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 643
“Break Out”

Break out and show the real world,
I’ll be the one to follow you
Don’t turn away by this point
Keep going, just keep on going…

When he heard the sound of footsteps, Dosa-Mina stopped singing and turned to the door. Elai-Riya opened it seconds later.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were up. And you’re already dressed, too!”
“Well, it’s Monday.” He pulled his hair out the collar of his shirt. “I need to go to school.”
Elai-Riya nodded. “Orlin-Aesth made some breakfast steak. You have time, so come eat with us before you go.”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
He was still feeling as bad as he had in recent days, but ever since October had started, he had started to try and cheer himself up, if for nobody else’s sake, for San-Kyung’s.
‘I don’t want him to keep being worried about me.’ That determination had kept him from giving into the worst of the negative feelings that had surfaced in him.
Dosa-Mina joined Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya at the table. A steak with an egg on top of it was sitting there for him.
“What, no vegetables?” Dosa-Mina said with a chuckle.
“Hey, come on. Vegetables would just ruin breakfast steak!”
“Ha ha.” Dosa-Mina began to poke at the steak. He cut it and began to eat.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina?”
“Hm?”
Orlin-Aesth scratched the back of his neck. “You look like you’ve been doing a little better lately. And I’m glad, I don’t want to see you unhappy, after all. But I’m just worried.”
“About what?”
“Well, San-Kyung told us about a Catori girl and he also mentioned a Llamaki and kind of hinted that they were bullying you,” he said. “And me and Elai-Riya were thinking, if those girls are still going to Malicerie, who’s to say they won’t bully you again?”
“I’m worried they might see your cuts,” Elai-Riya said.
Dosa-Mina was starting to feel dejected. He knew his parents meant well, but their words only made him feel worse about the situation.
“One of them is in Grade 12, and her grades aren’t horrible,” he said quietly, poking at the steak again. “So I don’t have to worry about her.”
“What about the other girl?”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond.
“If you can get over it, then that’s good and that’s what we want. But just know this, Dosa-Mina. If it gets bad enough, we are willing to pull you out of Malicerie. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”
“Whatever works for you. We just want to see you happy again.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. ‘And yet it’s your fault I’m not right now.’ He couldn’t bring himself to say that to his parents, however. So instead, he finished his steak and head off for school.

Dosa-Mina sighed.
‘I’m worrying everyone around me. And that’s only making everything worse! I don’t want to feel this way either. I’d rather everything go back to normal! But how am I supposed to!? Nothing’s been making me happy. And if I can’t cheer up, the people around me won’t, either. And the longer they keep worrying about me, the worse it makes everything! Am I really going to overcome this?’
He sighed. ‘Other people have actual problems, but mine is just oh wow, I had to be an oversensitive baby about the way I look. Amazing…’
He was snapped out of his thoughts when something smacked him in the face. San-Kyung turned around abruptly, looking startled.
“Oh…looks like your tail grew in, huh?” He said, trying to force a smile.
“Yeah, just this morning. It’s nice to have it back.” He wiggled it slightly. “I think I’ll probably be able to levitate again soon as well. I was able to stay off the ground for a while today.”
“That’s good! It looks like everything’s happening a little earlier than it did last year, too. Maybe you’ll be in your true form on October thirtieth instead of Halloween!”
“That’s wishful thinking.”
“Heh, nothing wrong with that.”
‘Maybe I should try taking that advice too,’ he thought. ‘Maybe something else will cheer up San-Kyung and my parents. And then I’ll be able to take part in that cheer, too. I can only hope…’
He started to feel that wouldn’t be the case when he noticed the expression on San-Kyung’s face become somber.
“Is something wrong?”
“Not anything that wasn’t wrong the last time we talked.”
“Oh…”
“Don’t worry about it, Dosa-Mina. And don’t bother trying to do anything about it either. It’s not a problem you can fix.”
“How do you know?”
“If there’s a fix, it’s probably more impossible than getting my true form permanently. So don’t bother.”
Dosa-Mina grit his teeth. ‘Of course. Even if something else could cheer up San-Kyung and my parents, there’s still me. Every time I talk to them, they’ll just be reminded of this stupid incident. There’s no out of that, is there?’
Dosa-Mina gasped.
‘Unless…’
“Something up?”
“Go ahead of me, San-Kyung. I just remembered something I have to do.”
“What?”
“Just go ahead. I’ll catch up with you!”
Dosa-Mina ran in the direction opposite of him. He kept running until he was certain San-Kyung wouldn’t be able to follow him anymore.
Then, he started to sing.

***

“Ooh, it looks like rival-boy isn’t sitting here today.”
“Don’t take that as an invitation,” San-Kyung spat.
“Malicerie doesn’t care what seat you sit in. And even if they did, it doesn’t matter ’cause it’s fun to break the rules. Fer-Shi’s kind of mad at me today anyway.”
“You know, I wouldn’t be if you’d just say that was uncalled for!” Fer-Shi snapped.
“Never. For you see, Fer-Shi, I have more power than you. Why should I have to say it was uncalled for?”
“Because! There’s no reason you should have done that! It’s not like you were crazy from a blood craving! Veiner might have forgiven you, but I haven’t!”
“And that’s how I like it, so why will I say it was uncalled for now?”
“Oh come on!”
“Damn it, why isn’t he here yet?” San-Kyung was starting to feel as though he had made a mistake leaving Dosa-Mina to go off on his own. He twitched in his seat, wondering if he should go back and look for him.
And just then, someone entered the classroom.
Almost all the students turned to see the boy standing at the entrance to the classroom. He was half-covered in fur, with a single pointed ear on his head and one wing.
He was smiling, but those in the front noticed he looked immensely uncomfortable.
“H-hello, San-Kyung,” he said. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. I had to do something first.”
Chatter rose among the students as he took his seat next to San-Kyung, nearly all of it centered around his true form.
“Damn it!”
“Wow…so that’s what Dosa-Mina really looks like.”
“Pretty rude to stare, isn’t it, goody-goody?” La-Iin sneered.
“Oh–! You know what, let’s just get back to our seats!”
As the two girls stomped back to their seats, San-Kyung whispered to Dosa-Mina,
“What are you doing!?”
“Well, everyone knows now, don’t they? Why not start to try and accept myself? Why? Would you rather I just keep hiding my true form? That’s contrary to what you’ve said to me in the past, you know.”
“But I thought–”
“That I still wanted to try and hide it anyway? There’s no point, San-Kyung. And who knows? Maybe this is good for me! If I start coming to school in my true form, maybe I can accept myself for sure. It’d be nice.”
Dosa-Mina sounded genuinely happy, but San-Kyung couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. Something about his friend’s smile seemed off.
When Mr. Chensu walked into the room, he took a deep breath, but before he could yell, his eyes rested on Dosa-Mina.
“Mr. Dslellular?”
“Hi, Mr. Chensu. I’m sure you’ve heard the news about my species?”
“I–I did, but I didn’t expect you to start coming here like that.”
“Well, I am! So don’t go mistaking me for someone else now, okay?”
“I don’t think I could,” he mumbled. With one last wary glance in Dosa-Mina’s direction, he started the history lesson for the day.

Throughout classes that day, students and teachers were greatly confused by Dosa-Mina’s appearance–or in La-Iin’s case, why he had decided to come to school that way.
San-Kyung had a different subject on his mind, however. Dosa-Mina seemed incredibly happy all throughout the day, except when Airy-Aekok had approached him to get a closer look. It seemed abnormal, especially since right before they had come to school Dosa-Mina’s mood had seemed much the same as it had been recently.
‘But then he was still in his Normal form…’
Was it possible that doing this was what Dosa-Mina really wanted? Would it make him happier?
San-Kyung could only wonder.

As the classes came to a close, Dosa-Mina started to put away his supplies.
“Rival-boy.”
La-Iin had walked over to his desk.
“Huh? Whatcha want, La-Iin?”
“Why are you coming here in that form?”
“Because I’m going to make a change. Dslellular Dosa-Mina is a Werewolf-Siren. The sooner I can be happier this way, the sooner my life will make an improvement.”
“Hm.”
“Why? Is something wrong with me trying to accept myself? I guess that’s just because you prefer to see me unhappy, isn’t it?” He ruffled her hair. “You little sadist!”
“You’re getting on my nerves.”
“Says the girl who’s been zipping out the classroom at high speed the last few school days. I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, speaking of.”
“Hey, Dslellular!”
Dosa-Mina turned to see who was calling him. Xhen-Bei was staring at him, a curious expression on his face.
“What is it, Yuuldang?”
“So you’re half-Werewolf, just like me!” He said. “Or, well, I’m a Pureblood, but still!”
“Yup.”
He folded his ears to his head. “Sorry, I don’t mean to stare. I’ve just never seen anyone with your kind of appearance before.”
“The one wing must look pretty weird,” Dosa-Mina chuckled.
“No, it wasn’t really that. I’ve just never seen a half-and-half Dualbreed before. Sorry, that was probably pretty rude of me to say. It’s just, I didn’t expect that.”
Dosa-Mina continued to smile, but his expression became warped, as if something was wrong. He began to chuckle.
“Yeah, not many Dualbreeds are half-and-half, are they? I guess you could say I’m a weirdo in that regard! Ha ha!”
Dosa-Mina began to cry.
“Dslellular!?”
“Aha, i–it’s nothing, Yuuldang,” he said. “I–I need to go home now. My parents will be really worried if I stay out too long! See you all tomorrow!”
He rushed out the classroom. San-Kyung followed after him. Once again, the classroom burst out into conversation about Dosa-Mina.

—–
“Are you alright?”
“I–I will be. I just didn’t expect to start crying.”
Dosa-Mina breathed. “I really thought it would be a liberating experience. And it was, at first…but I just can’t seem to get over that stupid half-and-half part.”
He shook his head. “But I’ll get better. I’m gonna try, for my sake, and for yours, too. I just don’t know what way I’ll get better yet.”

La-Iin gave a frustrated huff.
‘Rival-boy can never make things easy for me, can he…’

3.641.Truth of the Matter

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

1.639.Hope and Despair

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 639
“Hope and Despair”

3.
2.
1.

“It’s here again,” San-Kyung breathed, staring at the calendar. “October…”
‘It’s here again, and yet you still don’t have your true form permanently.’
San-Kyung pushed the thought away. As much as that fact hurt him, another fact was that it was October right now. The beginning of October, and from now until its end there was nothing to worry about in terms of powers.
“Excited, San-Kyung?” Salsh-Era asked.
“That’s a stupid question to ask.”
Salsh-Era smiled. “Maybe so. But I just wanted to make sure. I noticed you haven’t had the happiest of years. I’m glad to see you happier again.”
“…”
“But you really should get some rest. This isn’t one of the October firsts you can get away with staying up all night. It’s a school day tomorrow.”
“I know. Fine, I’ll go to bed.”
‘Guess I should call Dosa-Mina,’ he thought to himself. ‘I just hope he’s willing to talk to me.’
Dosa-Mina had opened up to San-Kyung in recent days, but it was still obvious that he wasn’t happy. His grades were still suffering, his parents seemed constantly concerned and San-Kyung couldn’t remember a recent school day in which his head wasn’t bowed upon entering the school.
But perhaps October would be different. October always cheered San-Kyung up. Perhaps it could do something for Dosa-Mina’s mood as well. He only hoped that something would give, because seeing Dosa-Mina the way he was bothered him greatly.
“Hey, if you want to borrow the CD player, it’s in our bedroom. After you asked us to pull it out, you got Kyuusie wanting to listen to some music, and she bought a new CD and listened to it all day.”
It was one thing that had slipped San-Kyung’s mind, the CD that Dosa-Mina had given him last Friday. With that there was no need for San-Kyung to call Dosa-Mina. The CD altogether was enough to give him eight hours of sleep, assuming he didn’t skip any of its tracks.
San-Kyung felt dejected. It was possible that October could turn things around for Dosa-Mina. But if it didn’t, would he just bring him down with him?

***

Getting up to go to school had been difficult for Dosa-Mina.
He knew he couldn’t pretend to be sick forever. It would only seem suspicious, though he had a feeling nobody who understood the situation would begrudge him for it.
But seeing his cuts disgusted him more in recent weeks than they had in the past. Now that his parents knew about them, he felt both an increased eagerness to cut and an increased disgust about his scars. When the urge to cut came on in the past, it was because of his nightmares. This was the first time he could remember that something else had caused the urge.
So getting dressed was a pain.
When he left his bedroom, it was always obvious that his parents were worried about him. They always kept a close eye on him, and he was quick to notice when their eyes focused on his arms.
So leaving the house was a pain.
And then, when he finally left, he was only reminded of what was to come. Lirako hadn’t bothered him since she revealed his species to the school–and even if she had been, after San-Kyung’s win in the race, she had been moved to a different seat and teachers kept a close eye on her. But it still hurt to recall what had happened. Even so, on occasion he could overhear students talking about him, wondering what he really looked like or why he was still coming to school in Normal form–and why he had hid it in the first place. He was still scrambling for an excuse with that one.
So even going to school was a pain.
It was affecting the rest of his life now too. The urge to cut hadn’t come up much in recent days, but cutting was the last thing he could remember bringing him any relief. Species study didn’t make him happy. His parents didn’t make him happy. Feather soup didn’t make him happy. Nothing made him happy, not even San-Kyung.
He was thoroughly miserable with no idea of how to overcome it.
Ahead of him on the path was San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina started to walk faster to catch up with him. San-Kyung seemed slightly startled when he stopped next to him.
“Hi,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey.”
“So, it’s October now, huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Did the CD work well?”
San-Kyung nodded.
“That’s good.”
“How are you?”
“Well, I’m alive.”
“Hm.”
“How about you? It’s October. You should smile a little. This is your favorite month.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Maybe when you can start levitating we should fly around over Bledger.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine.”
This was Dosa-Mina’s biggest problem. San-Kyung was obviously unhappy as well. It made sense why. But he couldn’t bear to see it. Always, one of his biggest priorities was seeing San-Kyung happy. As long as he had that, it didn’t really matter if he wasn’t happy. Not many things made San-Kyung genuinely happy, and for as much as suicide had crossed his mind recently he didn’t want San-Kyung to kill himself as he did in his nightmares.
But he couldn’t think of a way to cheer up right now, and he knew that if he started faking it San-Kyung would be able to tell. But he would have thought that October would make him at least slightly happier.
So why did he still seem upset?

***

School was uneventful that day. Lirako stayed away, as she was requested to, students talked with their friends, mostly about mundane topics, although both boys noticed talk of Dosa-Mina’s species come up. The most abnormal thing was that La-Iin’s strange behavior from yesterday had continued into the next day.
“Seriously, what’s wrong with her!?” San-Kyung exclaimed after she flew past his face.
Other than that, school ended without incident, and they head home along the path together. Dosa-Mina was somewhat surprised when San-Kyung continued following him on the way to his house.
“So, you’re coming over?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Hm.”
‘Should I ask him about that?’ Dosa-Mina wondered. ‘I mean, I guess it couldn’t hurt…’
“Hey, San-Kyung….October started today. I understand that it seems like we won’t make any headway in Operation Reboot before November arrives, but it still seems like there’s a chance what you want is possible. And anyway, other years you tried to forget that. What’s different about this year?”
“I am excited for October,” San-Kyung said simply. “But…I can’t be completely.”
“Why not?”
San-Kyung sighed. “I’m stressed out.”
Dosa-Mina cringed. “It’s not my fault, is it?”
“It isn’t. …not exactly, anyway.”
“Then it is my fault.”
“No, it isn’t. I have plenty of people I could blame. You’re not one of them.”
“Well, tell me what’s wrong, then!”
San-Kyung was silent.
“Please? You’re only going to make things worse for me now that you’ve said something.”
“I’ve been thinking about my priorities,” he said, an edge to his tone. “What I found out I can’t stand. It’s pissing me off. I keep imagining La-Iin, saying I’m an evil failure and that I’m weak. I can’t stand it!”
He sighed. “At this rate Halloween will be underwhelming, and it’ll only be because I might just be an evil failure.”
“Why would you say that?”
Dosa-Mina felt on edge. What San-Kyung was saying was just making all his nightmares replay in his head. Except it wasn’t suppressing his evil this time, it was failing at it in the first place.
“I guess I just don’t have the temperament for it.”
“Yes you do. I’m sure of it.”
San-Kyung shook his head. “I’m just confused. That’s all. I want to be excited. I am, I still am, but…it’s just harder to keep it up this year.”
“San-Kyung…”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve told you enough. Now you should understand. My priorities are in the wrong place. They’re detrimental to what I want. But no matter what I do, I don’t know how to change it or to turn it into an advantage. And I just know La-Iin would call that a failing. Maybe it would be better if I acted this way in front of her. Then she might get rid of that kiddy crush she has on me and leave me alone.”
San-Kyung turned away. “I’m going home. If you need to talk, just call.”
Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure of what to say. ‘This is my fault. I can feel it. But what does he mean by his priorities are in the wrong place? I seriously doubt San-Kyung would find out he has good morals, so what’s the problem?
‘It’s not me, is it?’

—–
Late that night, just as he was about to turn on the CD, San-Kyung’s phone rang.
“Hi.”
“Hey.”
“I know this is kind of random, but would you like to study together sometime soon or something like that? We could use some sort of interaction that’s not depressing like this, and my grades have been getting pretty bad, heh heh.”
“If you want to.”
“Okay. …I’m going to try and cheer up too, alright, San-Kyung? So just as you said I can talk to you if anything’s wrong, I want you to know you can do the same.”
“…alright.”
“Cheer up, okay? A maudlin San-Kyung is just weird! The San-Kyung I know has more confidence than this. And the sooner I can see him again, the sooner I’ll cheer up too. I’m sure of that.”
“Really?”
“Yup, really. There’s no lie there. Oops, I should probably get to bed. I think Mom’s still up and she’ll be mad if I’m too tired for school tomorrow. Or maybe she won’t be, but anyway, I should get some sleep. Good night, San-Kyung!”
“Night.”
‘I wonder if that would really cheer him up,’ San-Kyung found himself wondering. ‘But even if it would, can I really make myself act like that right now?’
Knowing what he now knew, San-Kyung felt pathetic. But because of that he also knew that Dosa-Mina was high priority. Perhaps then he could find it in him to get a little more excited than he was.
How easy that would be, however, was something he didn’t know the answer to.

28.636.And We Run Again

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 636
“And We Run Again”

“Hey, look, it’s Dslellular!”
La-Iin turned around. To her surprise, her classmates were right. Dosa-Mina was walking along the path to school with his head bowed. When San-Kyung noticed him, he ran to his side and said something to him that La-Iin couldn’t make out.
“I’m glad he’s not sick anymore,” Fer-Shi said. “But I wonder if he’ll be okay?”
‘I bet being sick was just a lie,’ La-Iin thought. ‘Maybe I should try that sometime. Or I would if I could get around Mama…’
As San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina walked past La-Iin, she overheard what they were talking about.
“The 28th Running Event is today. They told us about it on Friday. I would have told you about it then, but there was a lot happening that day.”
“I understand. It doesn’t really matter anyway. I don’t think I can do it.” Glancing at the other students, he added, “I don’t think I’ve completely gotten over that fever.”
“I’m just telling you.”
“The 28th Running Event is today?” Fer-Shi said.
“They said that on Friday. Were you not paying attention?”
Fer-Shi blushed. “I might have been half asleep…”
The students head for the back of the building. They were surprised to see a slightly more elaborate set up than in prior years. Most of the faculty was back there, setting things up and chatting among each other.
“Heyyy, students! Looks like you all got here at the same time! I’m surprised to see you, Class A. I thought the event was offensive because you need to run.”
“It still is,” a Class A student said. “But I happened to overhear about the special prize.”
“Oh…that…ahaha….” Sharai began to sweat.
“What’s the special prize?” Rini-Futo asked.
“You want to know? Well, the prizes we’ve given out the last years have always been something the top winners could decide, but they’ve always been simple objects, little prizes like chocolate and paper, but we thought we’d make it a little special this year. So this year, the first place winner of the 28th Running Event gets to pick something of their own decision. Nothing unreasonable is allowed, although I’m sure Class A is looking for a loophole…”
“I heard that!”
“Heh heh.”
“What about the other places?”
“They still have to pick simple items. It’d be too complicated and not very special if the other places could pick anything too, wouldn’t it?”
“You get to pick anything as a prize!?” La-Iin gasped.
“Wow, that sounds really cool! I bet I wouldn’t be able to win that, though. I’ve never won the running event.”
‘Think of what I could demand of them! That idiot Sharai mentioned something about loopholes. I wonder if there’s something I can use there!’
“Last year Lirako won the event…” Dosa-Mina sighed.
“Yeah, that’s right…”
“I really don’t have it in me to do it this year, San-Kyung.”
“Tell them that, then. But don’t worry. The event’s in September this year. So that means I have some extra strength to use. And I know just what I would ask for if I do manage to win…”
“The students certainly seem excited by your prize, Mr. Sharai,” the Principal said.
“What can I say? It’s a good prize. I can already imagine what I would ask for. Let’s just hope that Class A is as out of shape as the nurses make them sound so we don’t have to add all sorts of bathrooms!”
“I HEARD THAT!”
“No seriously, we’re screwed if they win.”
“I’m aware. But I don’t think it will be much of a problem. After all, your only rule was that the prize couldn’t be unreasonable. And really, what’s unreasonable is our determination, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is!”
The students began to prepare for the race.
‘Think of all the prizes I could win!’ La-Iin thought. ‘It would be amazing. But then, first I have to win the race! Maybe there’s a way I can assist myself.’
She spotted Shuera-Kaizima dressing into exercise clothes nearby. Desperate, she bit down into her arm and sucked a small amount of her blood, only as much as she could before Shuera-Kaizima noticed her. After she had finished, she ran up to Ai-Reia and smeared blood on her teeth.
“What the–!?”
“Who did that!?” Shuera-Kaizima asked, scanning the area frantically. “Someone sucked my blood!”
“I’m pretty sure La-Iin did!” Ai-Reia said. Shuera-Kaizima stared at her blood-stained teeth.
“Are you certain you’re not getting blood cravings, Ai-Reia?”
“I’m not! Listen, Kokohara, La-Iin just…”
La-Iin started to stretch. When she spotted San-Kyung doing the same, she ran to his side.
“So rival-boy’s not running?”
“No.”
“Good. We all know the prize he’d want would be a kiss from you or something.”
“He takes those if he wants to. Why would he need to ask for it as a prize?”
“Who knows?”
“I know. But he’s not racing.”
“Why not?”
“He was just sick.”
“He was sick earlier this month. I never get sick that close together. In fact, I haven’t been sick once this year! …I think.”
San-Kyung sighed. Then, he stopped stretching and glared at La-Iin.
“What do you mean, he was sick earlier this month? How would you know that?”
“Um…”
“Alright, students, the race is about to start!”
“You obviously have something you need to confess.”
“Now what kind of evil person would I be if I confessed about my evil deeds?”
San-Kyung sighed. “Well, at least I know I won’t have to worry about fighting you for ruling the world.”
“What!?”
La-Iin had wanted to continue the banter, but the race started almost immediately afterwards, and she was determined to win the race no matter what.
She propelled herself forward with her wings, gaining a quick burst of speed and passing many other students, including San-Kyung and Lirako. She felt confident, and not long after it felt as though something within her had changed. As if she had more stamina, more ability to move faster. She continued to press on, quickly outpacing the others.
“Since when was La-Iin so fast?” Dosa-Mina said.
“It does seem odd,” said Wei-Men. He was checking Dosa-Mina over. “You seem to have made a full recovery. I’m glad.”
“…”
‘But what to do about his mental state?’ Wei-Men wondered.
La-Iin continued on at top speed, but some other students began to catch up with her, namely Catori students–though La-Iin didn’t notice Shuera-Kaizima among them–avian students, and San-Kyung. San-Kyung glared down at her, then started to run ahead of her. La-Iin broke into a faster run.
Even with San-Kyung keeping pace with her, La-Iin felt confident that she could still win, even if just by a hair. The sudden burst of stamina in her legs kept her going, and the flapping of her wings propelled her forward nicely. She could see the end of the course up ahead.
“This is an outrage!” She heard Class A students yell from a distance. She chuckled to herself; when she did, she spotted Xhen-Bei, who had gained on them.
“You’re not the only two who can go really fast!” He panted. He started to keep pace with San-Kyung, and both boys overtook La-Iin.
“Not fair!”
The end of the course was steadily approaching, and with it La-Iin’s determination was increasing. She didn’t feel fatigued, but her legs were throbbing and sending her slightly off-balance. With flashes of all the things she wanted going through her head, she decided to give it her all and go for one last burst of speed.
“And the winner of the 28th Running Event is…”
La-Iin took a deep breath and collapsed.
“MOLSHEI SAN-KYUNG!”
San-Kyung gasped. La-Iin looked up at him. He looked genuinely surprised.
“Damn, I really thought I got it there. Good jo–ah, er…never mind…” Xhen-Bei backed away from San-Kyung.
“So, Mr. Molshei! As the winner of the 28th Running Event, what do you want as your prize?” Sharai asked. The faculty crowded around him–and soon too did the students who had finished the race. San-Kyung looked uncomfortable, that and angry.
“Expel Sanyaow Lirako.”
“Ah…ahaha…sorry, Mr. Molshei, but we can’t do that,” Sharai said. “Limitations, you know?”
San-Kyung huffed. “Fine then. …”
“…”
“Well!?”
“Allow me to….no….” His gaze went past the students. “Sanyaow Lirako is not allowed to have contact with Dosa-Mina until he says so. I don’t care how you enforce this. This is what I want.”
“Huh? Why?”
“Anyone in the school could tell you she’s been harassing him lately.” San-Kyung said, his tone scathing.
Sharai seemed slightly confused, but he gave a shrug and said, “Well, I guess we can give you that…it’s kind of inconvenient, but it is reasonable, especially if what you say is the truth. Well, then! Sorry, Miss Sanyaow, but looks like you’re going to have to keep your distance from Mr. Dslellular!”
“I’d say myself too but I bet you’re sticking to a stupid ‘one prize’ rule,” he hissed.
“San-Kyung won…” La-Iin smiled. “It’s a disappointment, but at least I’m in third place!”
“Actually, you’re in nothing place,” Sharai said.
“What!?”
“We heard you sucked Miss Kokohara’s blood and used her speed to make it as far as you did. Voluntary use of powers is against the rules.”
La-Iin began to shake. Then she let out a wild scream. The students and faculty members flinched.

—–
“I hate that stupid 28th Running Event!”
“Aw, it’s just for fun. And it is good exercise. But you really shouldn’t have sucked Kokohara’s blood. Then you could have gotten a cool piece of chocolate!”
“I wouldn’t have made it that far without that stupid blood,” she grumbled. “Oh, but they’ll see. Come 2016, the 28th Running Event will be no more…”
“What makes you say that?”
La-Iin flinched. “Just a hunch.”
‘But if it’s up to me, I’ll make it a certainty!’

25.633.Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 633
“Reach Out”

San-Kyung walked into the neighborhood where Dosa-Mina lived. That week, it was his third visit. What had happened on Tuesday, the way Dosa-Mina acted after it, none of it would leave his head. He couldn’t stop thinking about it even if he tried. Even worse, Dosa-Mina hadn’t been to school the past two days–and listening to the students’ gossip about him just made him think back on Deatrou, except he felt that this was somewhat worse.
At least during that time at Deatrou, he could get Dosa-Mina to crack a smile every now and then.
It had stirred up some thoughts in his head about his priorities. No matter what he was focusing on, he was always passionate about his plans for world domination or regaining his true form. He knew which one he would take if he could only pick one. He knew where his priorities lie, and he was convinced that he would be ready to drop his loved ones if they betrayed him.
Where did his loved ones fall, though? It was the question on his mind. If he had to pick between them, his true form or ruling the world, which would he pick? Could he really recover if he was betrayed by one of them?
Dosa-Mina was important to him. He already knew he was going to lose his parents some day. It was difficult to think of what was more important when he could barely see the future without the things he wanted.
But just perhaps, he would pick Dosa-Mina. That was what he had been thinking recently.
“Damn it, maybe La-Iin’s right…”
He knocked on the door to the Dslellular house.
“Oh….hi, San-Kyung.”
Orlin-Aesth answered the door. His exhaustion was obvious. San-Kyung hated to admit it, but he could sympathize with his concern for Dosa-Mina.
“You don’t have to ask any questions. He hasn’t come out of his room. There’s no fresh blood on his bed, so I don’t think he’s cut anytime recently. …oh, and come inside.”
San-Kyung walked inside and head for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom door.
“Hey, San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung glanced at him over his shoulder.
“Does the school know what that Catori and Llamaki did?”
“Not exactly.”
“Aren’t you going to tell them?”
San-Kyung sighed. “That’s what I don’t know.” He ignored Orlin-Aesth’s confusion and walked into Dosa-Mina’s room.
“Oh. It’s you again.”
San-Kyung scratched his head. It was obvious from his prior two visits that Dosa-Mina wasn’t going to respond to him just staying in there quietly. He would have to take action.
“So, you’re not really sick, are you.”
Dosa-Mina glared at him. “Awfully stupid for someone with such high grades to say. Obviously not. But I feel horrible anyway. I haven’t been able to do much of anything the last few days. People might say I’m over-reacting, but I’m stressed out.”
San-Kyung joined him on the bed. “Have you talked to the Demon girl?”
“Oh, so I should tell Sirlie I’m cutting too? Great idea, San-Kyung! Really, great.”
“Listen to what I’m saying, why don’t you?”
“Ha ha. Antagonism doesn’t just belong to you and you alone, San-Kyung. I’m well within my rights to be antagonistic. So when are you going to leave me alone?”
“I’m not.”
“Ha ha, just concerned about Operation Reboot, then? I suppose it’s easy to expect someone evil to be so self-centered.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. Dosa-Mina was making him angry, but he didn’t want to start a fight, not while he was in the state he was in.
“No. I haven’t even thought about Operation Reboot recently. Besides, if I needed to I could do all that research on my own.”
“So, are you going to say you’ve been thinking about nothing but me? I don’t buy it.”
“I didn’t get to say anything. Besides, it would be the truth. That and flaying Lirako, but that’s beside the point.”
San-Kyung sighed.
“What do you want?”
“Don’t try to appeal to me.”
“Do you want Lirako to win, then?”
“Lirako’s already won.”
San-Kyung groaned.
“Go ahead. Get frustrated. This is what I am. Once my secrets are revealed, I give up. Because emotionally I’m as weak as you are in November. I have my disgusting sides too, San-Kyung. And apparently they’re too much for you to deal with. So go ahead! Go focus on Operation Reboot!”
Dosa-Mina pulled a notebook from his shelf and tossed it at San-Kyung’s face. “Here are my notes on it. Focus on it. Forget about me. Use me when you need something.” He huffed. “Oh, that reminds me.”
He stood up and retrieved a CD, then tossed that at San-Kyung as well. “In case you can’t sleep. I don’t know if you have a CD player, but I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind getting you one, the poor fools.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Are you going to let me talk anytime soon?”
“No. I’ve given you what you want, so you can go home now.”
Evidently just words weren’t going to work on Dosa-Mina either. So San-Kyung stood up and hugged Dosa-Mina.
“So, going for the nuclear option?”
“Oh, just shut up.”
“Hmph.”
“You’re seriously making me wish I was a psychopath. Then this would be so easy. I could kill you and shut you up that way. No loss of sleep. I’d feel the same towards you as I do towards Lirako. Unfortunately, that’s not who I am. I’m worried about you.”
Dosa-Mina rolled his eyes.
“Get mad all you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll find what it is that makes you go back to normal. Don’t be scared to rely on me if you need to. I’ve dumped my problems on you before. And I know what’s going on. Until you stop acting like this, I’m not leaving you alone.”
“I–bu…”
Dosa-Mina couldn’t come up with another retort. What San-Kyung had just said reminded him of his own feelings. Whenever San-Kyung would get upset, he would be desperate to remedy it. It made sense that San-Kyung would feel likewise.
Part of him still wanted to resist, but at this point that side was quickly diminishing.
He hugged him back briefly, then pulled away from the hug.
“I really am willing to off Lirako if it makes you happy.”
“Thanks, San-Kyung. The sentiment is enough.”
“Finally cheering up?”
“No, but I shouldn’t have been such a jerk. I’m sorry.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Have I really been stressing you out all that much?”
“This has been on my mind.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Sorry. It’s just been hard. I don’t know how to bounce back from this.”
“I’ll figure something out if you can’t. …well, you could always drop out of Malicerie, then come back as another species, something that doesn’t have many powers like Ferreniao or Llamaki. Then you probably won’t be questioned about powers.”
“That wouldn’t work. I’d still be…” San-Kyung was smiling. “Oh, you were joking…geez, my sense of humor is going to be shot after this.”
“Well, like you kept saying, it’s just a little more time before we graduate. 2017 is the last year we’re in school, and that’s just until March. Past that we’ll have plenty of time to decide what to do from then on. That includes you fixing up your situations. We did it before with Deatrou. It could be possible here too.”
For the first time in a few days, Dosa-Mina smiled. “…thanks for not giving up on me, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung wasn’t sure of how to respond, so he didn’t.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
‘You know what you would do. You’d pick Dosa-Mina over your true form. How stupid.’
“San-Kyung?”
‘But there’s a reason for that. I can still ruin the world without ruling it. And I can still have my true form once a year. But Dosa-Mina is different.’
“I think he’s thinking about something.”
‘I hate this. I wish I was a psychopath. Or at least all alone. Then caring about people wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t even know how because I’d have been all alone, with no parents to teach me how that feels. Being a person sucks. I hate so many things in this world that what I love I love too much…’
“It must be pretty important. Maybe we shouldn’t bother him for now.”
‘How do other people put up with this!?’
“Still, I’m really curious as to what’s on his mind. I’ve never seen him look this intense before.”
San-Kyung groaned. He could imagine La-Iin gloating, saying that she was right and that his love had made him weak.

23.631.Bloody Stress

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 631
“Bloody Stress”

The Dslellular home had taken on a strange atmosphere.
For a while now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya had noticed that Dosa-Mina was acting strange. He seemed to be hiding something, and he was jittery and a bit spooked. Dosa-Mina had never been the easily scared type, and it was strange.
After they noticed his cuts, he had started acting even stranger, seeming somewhat lethargic. He wouldn’t talk to them and spent a lot of time in his room. He had become avoidant.
Somehow, how he had started acting after coming home from school yesterday was worse than all that.
“I could’ve sworn I heard him crying yesterday,” Orlin-Aesth said. They had decided not to talk to each other about what was going until Dosa-Mina left for school–and that had been strange in and of itself.
“Dosa-Mina, don’t you have to go to school?”
“…I don’t want to.”
“Why not?”
Instead of responding, he had started to get undressed.
“And he had another nightmare last night. I heard him screaming.”
“I did too. Did you go to calm him down?”
“I did, but the door was locked…I unlocked it, but by the time I got in he was asleep.”
“He hasn’t been screaming much lately. I thought he had gotten over those…”
“What’s going on with him?” Elai-Riya said. “I know he isn’t happy we found out about his cuts, but something changed yesterday.”
“I wonder….oh, hey, Elai-Riya, did I tell you that the Molsheis called yesterday?”
“They did? What about?”
“They were asking if something had happened that Dosa-Mina told us about. Apparently San-Kyung keeps talking about him like he’s concerned.”
“Do you think people are bullying him again?”
“Did he act this bad when people bullied him at Deatrou?”
“No, but then again, he’s stressed out about his cuts.” Elai-Riya gasped. “What if someone at school found out about those!?”
“That’d make a lot of sense why he’s acting like this…” Orlin-Aesth shook his head. “We can’t keep sitting back like this. We need to talk to him. If we don’t do anything, he’s just going to keep retreating like this. I don’t want to see Dosa-Mina like this. I want him to be happy.”
“I do too. But what can we do? He’s always retreated this way.”
“…” Orlin-Aesth cringed.
“Where did we go wrong? No…more like where did I go wrong. You were always attentive and respondent to his needs. All I did was teach him how to hide his problems. Dumped all my stresses about my job onto you and him. I messed him up. I know it.”
“Riya, please! Neither of us knew he was going to end up this way. Stop blaming yourself!”
Elai-Riya lowered her head. “I just wish we knew what to do.”

***

Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya’s conversation had continued on until Dosa-Mina returned home from school, but past that point it had started to go in circles. Neither of them had an answer for Dosa-Mina’s behavior–anything more than speculation, anyway–nor an answer as to how to help him.
When Dosa-Mina came home from school, he wasn’t any better. He kept his head bowed, went into his room, and locked the door.
“I have to do something about this.” Elai-Riya stood up. She walked over to Dosa-Mina’s door and pounded on it.
“Dosa-Mina! Please unlock the door. I want to talk to you.”
“Elai-Riya, that isn’t how you do this.” Orlin-Aesth brought his claw up to the keyhole and twisted it around inside. The door opened.
Both of them startled. Dosa-Mina was sitting on his bed, grimacing at a bleeding wound on his left arm. Both of them were quick to notice the knife lying nearby, covered in fresh blood.
Elai-Riya wanted to exclaim, as did Orlin-Aesth, but he calmed her and they approached Dosa-Mina, who by now had noticed that they came in.
Noticing bandages in his room, Elai-Riya reached for them and set to work patching up the wound.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“We wanted to see if you were alright,” Orlin-Aesth said matter-of-factly, though Elai-Riya could hear his voice wavering. “You looked pretty upset when you came home from school.”
“Dosa-Mina, you can’t keep cutting yourself,” Elai-Riya said. “Look, you opened up an old wound.”
Elai-Riya finished bandanging the wound.
“Dosa-Mina, I know you don’t want to, but we need to talk to you about the cutting. This isn’t just a few near the wrists, this is enough that your arms are almost half red. Please. If you want to hide them, go ahead. I know it would be hard to explain to everyone at school. But please stop cutting. And please tell us why this started.”
“…” Dosa-Mina stared down at the bandages. “Go ahead. Take the knife.”
Elai-Riya stared down in the knife in disbelief, but picked it up and held it close.
“I’ll just find something else anyway.”
Both flinched.
“And there is no reason. I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve had enough explaining to do recently anyway.”
“Dosa-Mina, have other people seen these cuts?”
Neither expected an answer, so they were surprised when he said “San-Kyung.”
“So aside from him and us, nobody else knows?”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
“What do you mean by had enough explaining to do? Has San-Kyung only found out about these recently?”
“No. That doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be alone right now. Go ahead and take the knife. Even if you didn’t I wouldn’t cut anymore right now anyway. I’m fine now.”
“You don’t sound fine.”
“Of course I’m not. But at least I have some relief now.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head.
“…don’t bother hiding your species when you come to school next time.”
They looked at each other.
“Is that what happened? Did someone find out about your species?”
“I don’t want to talk about this!” Dosa-Mina yelled. “Just get out! I’ve told you enough. Nothing you say is going to help. So stop trying to butter me up. Even if I talked to you, it would change nothing. Why don’t you wait until someone else tells you?”
His last words were said with a sneer. Both felt on the verge of tears, but right now they doubted it would help to cry in front of him. They left the room, Elai-Riya still holding the kitchen knife, and only let themselves cry once they were far away from his bedroom.
It didn’t last long. Someone knocked at the door a short time after they started. They opened the door.
San-Kyung was standing there.
“San-Kyung…”
“Dosa-Mina’s home, right?”
“U-um…” Elai-Riya nodded, though she could see that San-Kyung’s eyes were focusing on the bloody knife in her hands. His expression after that point was unreadable.
“It’s good that you came over, actually,” Orlin-Aesth said. “Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
“…”
“San-Kyung, I know you don’t like us, but would you mind telling us what’s going on with Dosa-Mina at school?”
“I don’t think he’d like that.” San-Kyung walked inside. His gaze was still on the knife.
“Alright, I understand. Can you at least tell us if someone’s bullying him there?”
San-Kyung’s expression hardened. “Yes.”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya gasped.
“Hey. You.” He motioned to Elai-Riya.
“If you ever feel like singing, nobody’ll care if your audience includes a blue-gray Catori.”
“Huh?”
“Go ahead and let the Llamaki join too.”
San-Kyung shook his head and went for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom.
“He seems upset,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“I wonder who those two are?” Elai-Riya said.
“I’d like to know the answer to that too. …well, he said we don’t have to disguise ourselves anymore. Maybe we should pay a visit to the school soon.”
“Would that upset him more?”
“That’s the big question.”

Dosa-Mina’s door was already open, so San-Kyung head inside. Dosa-Mina was lying on his side, facing away from him. He was quick to notice the bandage on his arm.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned over. “Why are you here? Did my parents call you?”
“I came here because I wanted to. I saw how you were at school today.”
Dosa-Mina turned away once again. “….everyone knows. The reality of that dawned on me yesterday. Malicerie knows I’m a Werewolf-Siren. My parents and you know that I cut. How much longer until the school knows that too?”
Dosa-Mina sat up. “You know, maybe I should give up like I did yesterday.” Dosa-Mina took off his shirt. He head over to his closet and pulled a short-sleeved one over his head. “Maybe I should go to school tomorrow like this instead. Yeah, that’ll be nice, hearing everyone’s questions, having the school contact my parents…”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“Except this shirt doesn’t really fit. But ah, who cares?” He flopped back onto his bed.
“Nothing matters to me anymore. I just wanted school to know me as San-Kyung’s clingy best friend. I liked that better. But then people started paying attention to me. It’s horrible. I hate it. Not everyone likes being notorious like bitchy Lirako.”
“I don’t care about killing her, you know. It wouldn’t lose me any sleep.”
“Don’t do that. Guess who would be the prime suspect? Not you, me. And anyway if you were found out it’d be jail for you. No.”
“…I’ll get back at her somehow.”
Dosa-Mina sat up again. “I give up. I really do. Like this I’ll only keep making people miserable. Or rather, the people I love. I don’t give a shit about people like Lirako, and she probably doesn’t care about how I feel. So, if you ever feel like dying again, give me a call and I’ll be there and we’ll off ourselves together. I just want my death day to come already.”
He pulled off his bandage and dug his fingers into the injury. San-Kyung sighed. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do for him.
So instead he joined him on the bed. Almost immediately, Dosa-Mina lowered his head, pulled his fingers out of the injury and started to cry.

—–
“Hey, Dosa-Mina…do you want us to pull you out of Malicerie?”
Orlin-Aesth had asked him that question at dinner.
“No. I’d rather keep the damage minimal. But if it’s possible, I’d like to pretend I’m sick for a few days. I need a break from that place.”
“We’ll do it,” Elai-Riya said. “But you have to promise us you’ll talk to us more.”
‘Damn it.’
“I’ll try,” he said.

22.630.The Reveal

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 630
“The Reveal”

‘Shit shit shit!’
Lirako had arrived at school late that day. After a health emergency at home–which turned out to be a false alarm–getting to school was the last thing on her mind. But if she was not going to the hospital, there was no excuse to not be going to school, and now that she was in Grade 12 she didn’t plan on missing school.
When she arrived in Class D, all the other students were already there, including Deki-Tyunri, who she took her seat next to. She was quick to notice that his head was bowed.
“Yo, Deks, what’s wrong?”
“No…nothing,” he sighed.
“How long do you think I’ve known you? I know something’s wrong. Tell me what’s up! Were you lonely for me?”
“I was…but…that’s not the problem.”
“So there is something wrong.”
Deki-Tyunri sighed once more. “It’s a ridiculous problem, though.”
“What’s wrong?”
“…” He glanced at San-Kyung. “…I just wish I could get over Molshei already, that’s all. I know it will never happen. He hates everyone who’s not Dslellular. I don’t even know if he loves his own parents. I don’t know how Dslellular got into his heart, but I really doubt I have what he does. We’re far too different in personality. And he’s neutral, isn’t he?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“I thought you would since you bother him often. But neutral is probably better to someone who’s evil than good is. And since our morals don’t align, even if I did get what I want, would it even matter? They say couples with differing morals have a lot of problems.”
Deki-Tyunri looked genuinely upset. Seeing his expression broke her heart.
‘But what could I do to help him there? I’ve gone up to San-Kyung before. He’s rough stuff. I don’t know how Dslellular puts up with him. …but then, I don’t know how he puts up with Dslellular, either.’
Just as she was about to let out a sigh of her own, an idea popped into her head. ‘Or maybe there’s a little something I can do to nudge them in the right direction…’

***

Lirako waited until the break time before Science class to enact her plan. She could remember La-Iin intervening in a past altercation she had had with both him and Dosa-Mina, and considering that her plan dealt with trying to get San-Kyung to take romantic interest in someone, she had a feeling it was the best course of action.
So once La-Iin left the classroom, she walked over to San-Kyung.
“Yo.”
San-Kyung glared at her. To Lirako, the glare looked far more malicious than usual.
“Don’t talk to me, Catori. It’s September. It might not be October yet, but you’ll still regret speaking to me.”
“C’mon.” She sat on his desk. “Besides, it’s not me I want to talk about. It’s someone else.”
Lirako noticed that Dosa-Mina was also glaring at her, but his expression seemed uncertain as opposed to San-Kyung’s.
“You know my friend, Elyshen Deki-Tyunri?”
“I don’t care.”
“Lirako…!” Deki-Tyunri’s wings had started to unfold. Lirako winked at Deki-Tyunri, but he still looked flustered and upset.
“Don’t just shut me down. Look, he’s a nice kid. I think you and him could probably be good friends if you’d open up.”
“No.”
Lirako sighed. “Yet you’ll be friends with Dslellular?”
“My life is none of your business. Now back off unless you want to be someone’s meal.”
“I kind of don’t want to. But I’m not going to back off either.” She hopped off the desk and put her face close to San-Kyung’s.
“You know I know, right?”
“Know what?”
“Dosa-Mina’s species.”
San-Kyung’s eyes twitched. Lirako could tell that he was trying to hold a straight face.
“Everyone does.”
“Really? I thought it was a well-kept secret.”
“He’s very blatantly a Normal.”
“Trying to cover for him, eh?”
“Catori, I think I know what you’re getting at. Cut it out. I’m more than willing to lie to you and I’m telling you the truth here. So back off.”
“How am I supposed to believe you, then?”
“San-Kyung, please!” Dosa-Mina said.
San-Kyung glanced at him. “Just get away from me.”
“Oh, alright. If you’re so certain that Dosa-Mina is a Normal, I guess I’ll just tell the class what I suspect, then.”
Students nearby started to turn in their direction. Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened.
“San-Kyung–!”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. He seemed to be having a crisis.
Lirako was more than ready to continue on with her current line, until she caught sight of Deki-Tyunri out the corner of her eye. He was obviously quite upset.
‘Damn, if Deki-Tyunri finds out I’m trying to blackmail San-Kyung into liking him, he’ll probably be furious with me.’ Lirako’s ears flattened to her head. ‘I’d love to see them squirm more, but I think I’ll have to let it go.’
“Ah, well, it’s just a rumor anyway. Stirring up class would be a little more fun if everyone was here. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.”
Finally.” San-Kyung sounded genuinely relieved.
Lirako turned to head back to her seat. She could already see that Deki-Tyunri was obviously less than pleased by what she had done. ‘That was a mistake. I should’ve known it’d make him mad…’
“…I should have known that bitch wouldn’t leave me alone…”
It was said so quietly, obviously intended for only one person to hear–but Lirako had picked up on it quite easily.
And she was pissed.
She turned around, stared down Dosa-Mina, and yelled at the top of her lungs,
“Says you, Weresiren!!
Dosa-Mina gaped. San-Kyung arguably looked even more surprised than he did.
“Weresiren?” Xhen-Bei said.
“Weresiren?” Zae-Mia said.
“As in, a Werewolf-Siren?” Ai-Reia asked. “Sanyaow, what are you doing calling him that for?”
“This guy always had us believing he was a Normal. But the truth is, what I called him is what he is. If you don’t believe me, you’re always welcome to go and talk to his parents about it.”
“How do you know that for sure?” Xhen-Bei sounded as if he didn’t believe her. “I mean, like, did he tell you or something?”
“I have irrefutable proof. And their expressions should say more than I ever could.”
Dosa-Mina covered his mouth and San-Kyung began to try and look stoic.
“So? What say you, students of Class D? Feel free to ask him to jump as high as he can or sing for you. I can assure you he’ll do neither.”
“But…how can that be? Wouldn’t we know if he was a Werewolf-Siren?” Zae-Mia said.
“Yeah! And why would he hide something like that?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Unless he’s like Dereni and he wants to cannibalize us,” Shan-Zetsu said, his expression one of fury.
“Well, Dosa-Mina? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I…I’m a Normal…she’s just lying because I wouldn’t sing for her.”
“Does choking really help your situation?”
“Lirako!” Deki-Tyunri exclaimed. “Normal or Werewolf-Siren, why are you bothering him?”
“Because this jerk and I had a promise. I’d keep his secret in exchange for him not badmouthing me. And I don’t know if you heard it, but we Catoris can pick up on things even like whispered bitches. If you want proof, ask Llanni.”
Students turned to see Airy-Aekok.
“U-uh, um…like, I guess I could show you proof, yeah…”
“But are we sure that it’s concrete proof? Sanyaow and Llanni’s claims alone cannot just make us believe that that is the truth. Refusing to sing is suspicious, but there is nothing in his appearance that indicates he is anything other than Normal.”
“Have you ever heard of the Dereni brothers, Vampiris?” Cae-Bougen asked. “The younger brother attends this school right now, disguised as a Normal. I don’t know if I believe this claim, but it’s certainly possible…”
“Well, I know that, but–”
“Stop.”
The students turned to Dosa-Mina.
Dosa-Mina had had enough of their debating by now. He already knew there was no getting out of this one. It was a fight that had been lost the moment Lirako found out. Inevitably something was going to happen. A school event or something of the such. He could already imagine, his mother arriving disguised as a Normal, his father wearing several cloaks–and Lirako pulling off those cloaks, or another curious student reaching under them and feeling fur.
Even if Airy-Aekok was bluffing and she didn’t have any proof, sooner or later they would find out, and if he kept retaliating at this point, they were going to be even more curious when the truth came out. He was so close to leaving school without it ever being found out.
But that was just a dead pipe dream now.
“…Lirako, I understand our deal, but when I said that I wasn’t talking to you.”
“So? I heard it anyway.”
“Dslellular, does this mean that Sanyaow’s words are true? Are you a Werewolf-Siren?”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I give up. I’m not going to deny it anymore. Sooner or later one of you is going to get too curious for your own good and go prying into my business. So there. Now you know. Now leave me alone.”
The classroom erupted into conversation instead. Dosa-Mina cringed.
“Why did you tell them!?” San-Kyung whispered.
“There’s no point in hiding it anymore, San-Kyung. It was a losing battle. I weighed my options and this was the situation with the more favorable outcome. Besides, if she really does have proof, I’m screwed either way.”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“There’s no out,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve been on a downward spiral for a long while now. Everything’s going to come out about me. Soon enough there won’t be any secrets I can hide anymore.”
Tears rolled down his face. “Nothing…”

—–
“La-Iin, did you hear!?”
“Hear what?”
“Apparently, Dosa-Mina’s a Werewolf-Siren!”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “How do you know that?”
“H-huh? You already knew?”
“Isn’t that obvious? But how do you know?”
“He just told the whole class!”
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know!”
La-Iin huffed. “Something seems off…”

16.624.Down Grade

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 624
“Down Grade”

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

***

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

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