17.594.Operation Reboot in Action

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 594
“Operation Reboot in Action”

A woman set up her stall near the plaza of Bledger. ‘I wonder if I’ll get any attention?’ She did her best to make the stall look neat and tidy.
Out the corner of her eye she spotted two hooded figures walking up to the stall. “Why, hello there! What can I get for–eek!”
“Something wrong, ma’am?”
“Ah, er, no, not particularly….is he…glaring at me?”
“Don’t worry about it. That’s his natural look.”
Two boys had approached her stall. Both were wearing hoodies that made it slightly hard for her to see their faces, but she could see their eyes, and noticed that one of them was slightly smaller than the other. Nevertheless they both seemed to be taller than her. She felt a little nervous as the smaller once glanced through her inventory.
“Ma’am, can you tell us a little bit about the potions you’re selling? We’re not all that well-versed in potions, you see.”
“Oh…certainly.” She swallowed hard. “I sell potions that mostly help people. They’re like medicine, but I’d like to hope they’re more effective than even the best medicine.”
“Mm-hm…” The smaller one had started to jot down notes in a notepad. “Tell me, would you compare potions to drugs? After all, you did just compare them to medicine.”
“Heavens no! Well, I guess some potions, but not mine! Potions should be designed to do good for you, that’s what I think! And their effects do wear off!”
“Hm.” The smaller one turned to his companion. “I’m not sure this is a good idea. I don’t care what you say, I’m still wary about potions!”
“I’m surprised, considering this seems more like something I’d be wary about,” his companion hissed. “I don’t care what you say. I don’t think this is anything like that drug.”
“What…what are you two talking about?”
“Oh, nothing. Pretend you didn’t hear that.” The smaller one glanced around her inventory. “You said your potions are for helping people, right? What would you give to someone who’s feeling weak?”
“Well, I made this potion,” she said, showing them a bottle of purple liquid. “This is designed to give you a bit of stamina. It might work.”
“How much?”
“Um, well, 2000.000 vuyong…”
The shorter one rummaged through his pocket and handed her exact change. “Thanks!”
The two walked away. She gave a nervous smile. ‘What weird people…’

Once they were a decent distance away from the Witch woman, San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina pulled down their hoods. Dosa-Mina stared at the purple liquid with a concerned look.
“I don’t see why you’re so worried about it. You’re okay with medicine, aren’t you? Vaccines? You’re a species studier. How is this worse than drugs if those other things aren’t?”
“It’s not potions in general that worry me, really. I just heard that some Witches are less than honest about the contents of their potions.” He sighed. “Besides, giving you a potion to temporarily heighten your powers? I don’t know if such a thing exists, but it sounds exactly like that drug.”
“But there’s a difference, isn’t there? You said that potions can be washed out of the system anyway.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Can you blame me for being worried about you, though? You’ve been pretty desperate about getting what you want. But we’re here now, so do you want to try it, or not?”
“I’ll try it.” He took the liquid from him. “Any chance is a chance I’ll take. And it’ll be better than the dead-ends we’ve hit recently. If this stuff really works, and we can find a potion that does what I need….”
Dosa-Mina had mixed feelings about the ordeal. ‘Look at him. He’s so happy. If this all works out, it would really be great. He’d just have to take a potion and he could look like he wants…you need to stop feeling so wary! This is for his sake…’
San-Kyung drank the liquid. “He–hey, if you’re going to drink that now, can I try some, too?”
“Why?”
“Oh, no reason. Just curious. We’re in this together, after all.”
San-Kyung opened his mouth as if about to protest, but sighed and handed the rest of the potion to Dosa-Mina. There was only a small amount left on the bottom, and Dosa-Mina downed it in one go.
“Phew! What a bad aftertaste…”
“If only we hadn’t been so focused on La-Iin all that time. Witches and Warlocks might just be what I need. Damn it, why can’t I be half-Warlock?”
“I’ve never heard you lamenting your species before,” Dosa-Mina said playfully.
“Animated Pumpkin is fine. Aesthetically Normal is not. That’s how I feel. And if I was half-Warlock, we wouldn’t need to buy potions.”
“Mm-hm.” Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “Well, as long as you’re happy, that’s good enough for me. But maybe next time, we’ll look into potions some more before we go to creepy stalls. That lady did seem trustworthy, though.”
“If you say so…”
The two stood around in silence for a short while, waiting for the effects to kick in.
“I’m getting bored.”
“Me too. But what can we do while we wait for this to kick in?”
“Run? Running sounds like a good idea.”
“Yeah, it does. We could run to Hledshess and back to here. That’s not exactly close, after all.”
“Yeah.” Right after saying that, San-Kyung took off ahead of Dosa-Mina. Dosa-Mina quickly caught up with him, and the two kept an even pace as they dashed across Bledger. The competition itself didn’t matter; they were enjoying running for running’s sake. As they passed by areas with more people, they caught a bit of attention, but at their speeds, it barely mattered. They were soon out of their line of sight.
The two kept running until they neared Hledshess, not once feeling slightly drained. Even when they made it to their stop, San-Kyung began to pace as if restless.
“Now what?”
“I have no idea.” He pulled up his hood. “Just be careful. Hey, there’s a stream near here, isn’t there? We can run past that and see what’s there.”
“Yeah. But only quickly, and then we get the hell out of here. Hledshess isn’t really the best place for us to be anymore…”
The two ran over to the stream, then bolted off past it. A path of stones was ahead of them, and they were able to hear voices. Looking around, they noticed a small Fairy society to their left.
“I didn’t even know any Fairies lived in Bledger,” Dosa-Mina said. “Wow!”
“Do you want to get caught!?”
“No. But I bet you want to wreak havoc on their little peace, don’t you?”
“I’m more concerned with getting this energy out of my system!”
The two continued to run. All sorts of winding paths were ahead of that small stream, along with some forest fixtures that Dosa-Mina was convinced were put there by the Fairy society. Once they had reached the top of a small hill, only then did they start to feel tired.
“I think we’ve run enough,” San-Kyung breathed.
“Yeah. Hey, you think that energy…you think that was the potion?”
“I bet you it was.”
“She said it was supposed to give you stamina, right? She must not have diluted it any, because I only drank a little and that was powerful!”
San-Kyung grinned. “If that’s the case, maybe I have a trump card for November…” He began to gasp and wheeze, but despite his labored breathing, he looked happy. “You should’ve looked into this earlier!”
“Sorry, there’s just a lot on Witches and Warlocks. I always get overwhelmed.” Dosa-Mina took deep breaths. “Alright, we should probably head back before we get lost here.”
“Yeah…”
“Got enough energy to keep going, or do I have to jump you there?”
“I can go on my own!” Despite San-Kyung’s protest, Dosa-Mina wrapped his arms around him and then jumped up. The jump was weak, so Dosa-Mina went into a second jump, this time holding San-Kyung in a way that was much more convenient for him. They jumped until they reached the stream, at which point San-Kyung pushed him away and continued on without him.
As soon as they peeked their heads out, they were greeted by the wild faces of a Catori and a Bearperson.
“Looks like what they say in copper school is true,” the Catori giggled. “Criminals really do come back to the scene of the crime!”
Dosa-Mina felt petrified, but noticed that San-Kyung seemed unusually confident. The duo in front of them looked ready to pounce, and yet he looked collected. When the two of them did make their leap, San-Kyung tied them up with vines, pulling them tight enough that they began to gasp and wheeze for breath.
“That should do it,” he said. “Come on! Let’s run!” He grabbed Dosa-Mina’s hand and the two ran out of Hledshess.
“You know, I’m fully capable of taking care of myself!”
“I know, I just wanted to get out of there faster! Didn’t think we’d run into those hacky “authority” people again. Think they saw our faces?”
The two came to a stop. “I wonder…”
“Hledshess is probably a bad idea. The people there already hate us enough to set bombs and traps. We have the power to fend them off, but if they riot again…”
“You have to wonder why we kept trying in the first place.”
“That place is significant, that’s why.”
San-Kyung began to walk off. “By the way, why were you so calm dealing with that duo back then? I know they’re not exactly police, but they’re still kind of authority. And they are pretty brawny…”
“I could predict their moves from miles away. Besides,” he flashed Dosa-Mina a smile. “I’m feeling confident after that potion. When I was younger, I wouldn’t have even thought about this. But this is a way I can get what I want without having to rely on someone else.”
“You do, though. The Witches and Warlocks who make them.”
“I don’t need to pretend to befriend them though, do I?”
“Yeah, guess not.”
“Lately I’ve just been a little happier,” he said. “…things started looking up for me in July, mostly anyway.”
“That’s good!”
“I’ll find my way. I’m still determined to give the world its comeuppance. Are you holding in there?”
“Huh?”
“Are you alright. You don’t talk about yourself, you know.”
“Oh, I–I know.” Dosa-Mina smiled. “Don’t worry, San-Kyung, I’m fine. And I’m even better seeing you happy. Trust me, the best thing for me is to see you act like you did back there!”

—–
“I know the real reason you’ve been happier lately, San-Kyung.”
“You know the real reason why already.”
“Nope, that’s not it. You’re happier because you’ve finally embraced your natural talent for dancing! Think about it: the best way to mock the people you’re damning to life in hell is to dance in front of them.”
“…”
“You don’t agree, huh.”
“No, I don’t. That just sounds stupid.”
“Ah well. It sounded like a good idea in my head.”

15.592.To See the Future–Part 4

The La-Iin Series
Capter 592
“To See the Future–Part 4”

“You know what’s weird to think about?”
“What’s that, Dad?”
“You’re sixteen and in Grade 11 now…2017 isn’t all that far away anymore. Graduation is the last step before adulthood.” Orlin-Aesth’s ears flattened against his head. “Why can’t you go back to being that cute little ten-year-old you were a few years ago!?”
“Why ten?” Dosa-Mina asked. “Aw, come on, Dad. You’ve never had a problem with me aging before.”
“It’s just the idea of you leaving the nest and all. But I guess at least you’re prepared for adulthood.” He smiled. “After all, you even have a game plan for the future, don’t you?”
“Yep! Hopefully someday in the future, you’ll see my name along with many other species studiers!”
“Hopefully,” he chuckled. “Although hopefully I’ll also see you walking around in your true…ahem. Never mind.”
“I know what you were going to say, Dad. That’ll never happen.” ‘And hopefully along with that, nobody will ever know about it, either…’

After Orlin-Aesth head to work, Dosa-Mina found himself pacing around his room.
‘Dad might be right about me having a goal. I do have a lot of ideas for my future. But I’ve never considered certain parts of it, have I?’
Immediately a few things came to his mind–San-Kyung, his nightmares, and the duo of Lirako and Airy-Aekok. ‘Sure I can strive for being a species studier all I want, but what if I can’t move past the point I’m at now? What’ll I do if I’m still having nightmares in the future?’
He sighed. ‘Well, I’ve dealt with my other problems just fine in the past. I’m sure the future would be no different, if I really had to….’

***

“Hey, Elai-Aesth, whatcha up to?”
Elai-Aesth glanced at his father. “I was measuring the properties of a certain protein Warlocks usually come in contact with. Unfortunately your unusually chirpy voice distracted me.”
“Sorry about that, kiddo. I know what it’s like to be distracted right in the middle of rigorous research.”
“Meh, it wasn’t going anywhere.” Elai-Aesth shook his head. Dosa-Mina smiled. He was thankful for Elai-Aesth–he had been the product of his last-ditch effort to have a child. Dosa-Mina was always uncertain about his willingness to show off his species, however. ‘It probably wasn’t the best idea, in hindsight, to have a biological child if I want to hide that…but I can’t see life without him now!’
“Is Uncle San-Kyung coming over today?”
“Uncle San-Kyung?” Dosa-Mina questioned. “Since when did you start calling him that?”
“What, do you want me to call him Papa San-Kyung? That man has no biological relation to me.”
“No?”
Elai-Aesth sighed. “God, Father, what the hell do you want me to call him!?”
“You didn’t need to mouth off at me like that. Just San-Kyung is fine. I don’t think he minds at all.”
“If you ask me, he seems like he minds a lot,” Elai-Aesth grumbled. “I don’t get your relationship with him, Father.”
“We’re best friends.”
“I don’t think you understand…never mind.”
“And to answer your question, yes, he is coming over here today. Happy?”
Elai-Aesth didn’t respond. Moments later he said instead, “So, Father, I was curious…”
“Yeeees?”
“Why do you walk around in that Normal form if you were so determined to have a child who had Werewolf and Siren blood in them? You make no sense.”
“I’ve been told that before by many people years before you were born, Elai-Aesth. I don’t know. I guess you could say it’s kind of a natural curiosity. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Normal.”
“Father, that’s physically impossible. Your powers show through even in that falsified form and there is no defined mental reason that would cause one to believe that one is–”
“I get it, I get it. It’s circumstances beyond my control at this point, alright?” A knock sounded at the door. “I think I know who that is. Try and be a little more cheerful, alright, Elai-Aesth? I swear, you’re probably the least cheerful Dslellular currently living.”
“Well, excuse my confusion, then.”
Dosa-Mina went to answer the door. San-Kyung was standing there, his eyes focused on a piece of paper in his hands, though he looked up when Dosa-Mina opened the door.
“Hey.”
“Hello there, San-Kyung! Come on in!”
San-Kyung closed the door, and Dosa-Mina ran ahead of him, though he couldn’t keep himself from glancing over his shoulder. ‘San-Kyung looks exactly like he does in my nightmares now, top to bottom, but he hasn’t been having the problems the one in my nightmares has. And I have Elai-Aesth now. He wasn’t in my nightmares…maybe I don’t have to worry. …geez, Elai-Aesth is nine now, Dosa-Mina! Of course you don’t have to worry about it anymore!’
“What’s got you lost in though?” San-Kyung asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. Just thinking about how you and Elai-Aesth can be a little similar sometimes, heh. You two both have bad attitudes.”
“Excuse me?” Elai-Aesth shot a glare in his father’s direction. “Oh. Hello, Sa…San-Kyung. What brings you here?”
“Your father, who else?”
“Yeah, I don’t think San-Kyung likes walking all the way out here. But he does it all for me!” Dosa-Mina hugged his arm, and Elai-Aesth’s face went bright pink. “Seriously, Father! Either be honest with him or stop teasing him!”
“…”
“Aha ha ha. I’ll never stop showering San-Kyung in affection.”
“Yeah, not even in your thirties,” he sighed.
“Aw, come on.” Dosa-Mina let go of him. “Actually, Elai-Aesth, I did ask him over for a genuine reason. I have something to show him. You two wait here and I’ll go get it!”
Dosa-Mina ran off, but even a room over he could overhear the starts of a conversation between San-Kyung and Elai-Aesth.
“San-Kyung, what are your intentions with my Papa?”
“Papa?”
“I only call him Father when I’m angry with him. You probably never noticed the difference because I’m always angry with him when you come over. Now talk with me. I’m aware of your xenophobia but I’d rather it not apply to me.”
“Hmph.”
“Don’t act like a child. You’re thirty-six.”
“Funny you’re saying that.”
“I value maturity in a person.”
“That makes me wonder how you deal with Dosa-Mina every day.”
“I do care about him despite his ridiculousness. Now, tell me, what are your intentions with him?”
“You should be asking him that question about me.”
“I’ve tried, trust me.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. He retrieved the files and head out the room.
“Look, I don’t know the answer to that question either. I’ve tried asking him but–” San-Kyung looked up. “Oh, you’re back.”
“Well!? Are you going to answer the question, San-Kyung!? My Papa frustrates me endlessly on this subject! If I could get a clear answer from you, I might be able to–” Elai-Aesth cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
“Papa? That’s new.”
“He must be angry with you more than half the time, then…” San-Kyung stood up. “Alright, what is it?”
“My coworkers think I’m crazy, but I’ve been using a lot of my spare time to look into the whole Aesthetically Normal-Regular Form transformation you want so much.”
Elai-Aesth forced himself between them and stared at the papers; Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung flinch briefly. “So, this is what you’ve been holing yourself in your room for? Your devotion to each other astounds me. It’s also the source of much confusion on my part…”
“Aaaanyway, so in the time I’ve been looking into this I’ve found out a few interesting things. And I think it might be possible, but it’s going to take a bit.”
“I’ve waited thirty-six years. I can wait more if it means there’ll be a payoff at the end.”
“There might just be! But what I’m looking into right now is amplifiers. There seem to be a few methods worth looking in to, though.”
“Astounding what you’ve found out, Papa!”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, it is pretty amazing.”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung? You look sad. We haven’t been able to hang out as much since Elai-Aesth came along. Go ahead and tell me if anything’s on your mind.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just wish this could have happened years ago as opposed to just having a breakthrough now.”
“Me too. But what are you gonna do?”
“What about you? You aren’t cutting anymore, are you?”
Dosa-Mina paled.
“Cutting?”
“San-Kyung, I thought I asked you not to bring that up in front of Elai-Aesth!”
“Shit. Sorry.”
“What’s he talking about, cutting?”
“Er, stress cutting! You know, like cutting paper–” Dosa-Mina flinched. Elai-Aesth had lifted up his sleeve. “I’m not stupid, Father. Your suspicious behavior made it click better than it would have on San-Kyung’s word alone. How long have these been here!?” Elai-Aesth’s paws gripped his arm tight and made him flinch.
“I–I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina…” Dosa-Mina glared at San-Kyung. “I’m not the one who should be telling you anything about parenting, but you owe it to that kid to tell him. I’ll…make it up to you twofold, just don’t keep him in the dark.”
“You’re saying that?”
“Father, please.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “…they’ve been here for a while. Ever since me and San-Kyung were kids. But I was older than you are now when I started. I had….certain reasons for starting that I’ll tell you about later. It’s easier for me that way…but anyway, now those reasons, they’re gone. All of them. I’ve realized it was irrational…but I can’t erase what I did in the past, no matter how hard I try.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I wish I could.”
“Father…”
San-Kyung scratched Dosa-Mina’s head.
“Why keep this from me!? You trust me, don’t you? Why do you do things like this to keep yourself from being happy?”
“I–I don’t think you understand, Elai-Aesth. I’m happier if I can pretend things are the way I want them to be. What am I supposed to do!? I can’t get rid of all these cuts!”
Elai-Aesth had started to cry. The expression on his face was a lot different from the composed one Dosa-Mina was used to seeing. He looked genuinely distressed.
“Father, I know I’m not nice to you all the time, but you’re still my Father! How do you think I feel seeing things like this!? I just want you to be happy…”
Dosa-Mina pulled him close. “Sorry, Elai-Aesth. Unfortunately, your Father’s not as strong as he’d like to pretend…”
“So–so why do you pretend you’re a Normal, then?”
“I think you probably figured that out by now, haven’t you?”
“He’s always been like this, kid. He kept these things secret from me too. I had to find out myself.”
“Why!?”
“I just want to pretend everything’s the way I want it to be…things like this are hard on me, too.”
“Father, you can’t do that. If you hold things in like this, when they are found out, it will be all that much worse. You make things hard on yourself this way. You’ll only be more unhappy if things are found out against your will.”
“Elai-Aesth…?”
“So please, be happy. It’s why I tell you to be honest with your feelings, you know…you really should be, whatever they are.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Th–thanks. I guess I can try…after all, now I know I was cutting for no good reason, maybe I can start being happier…but one thing at a time, alright?”
“You may consider me a xenophobe, kid, but maybe because you’re his child, you’re not as bad as the rest of the people. I can sympathize when it comes to him not being honest…”
“Yeah…”
“I can try. But you’ll have to be patient with me, alright?”
“Mm-hm…it’s just…it’s scary, seeing all those cuts.”
“I know. I’m sorry. To make it up, why don’t I make us all something to drink? Would you like that?”
“Yes…”
“Whatever.”
Dosa-Mina handed the papers to San-Kyung and walked into the kitchen. Soon after he noticed that Elai-Aesth and San-Kyung were close behind him, watching him with concerned expressions.
‘What Kkumneok said happened where he comes from won’t happen here. They prove that to me…people love you, Dosa-Mina. So why can’t you just tell them all these problems you have…’
“Hey.”
“What now?”
San-Kyung handed him a small picture. It was a picture of him and San-Kyung on their graduation day.
“I figured you could use a little cheering up after what happened.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. I really could…”

—–
‘If I want to be a father in the future, I’ll need to try and become honest with myself. All these problems I have…’ He lifted up his sleeve, then quickly pulled it back down. The sight of so many cuts was too much for even him to bear.
‘But things that way would just be too painful! I like things the way they are now. And even if I have to become more honest with myself when I have a kid, why should I have to show these to everyone at school?’
Dosa-Mina was plagued with uncertainty, and it made him feel sick to his stomach. ‘What would really be better for me, anyway? What do I really want?’

10.587.Lucid Dreaming

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 587
“Lucid Dreaming”

“Hm…”
“What’s up with you? Your face looks strangely expressive right now. Though that doesn’t mean much.”
“I’ve just had…things on my mind.”
“Things?”
“Yes. Many things. And I’m having a hard time sorting them all out.” She fluffed her pillow and laid down. “For now, I can get some sleep and keep planning in the morning. But I’m having a conflict about what way I want to take my ideals.”
“And why would that be? You’re not becoming a goody-goody, are you!?”
“No! Bes-Isa, you’re smarter than that, so don’t let me hear you say something that stupid ever again. I’ve just been wondering if this plan is any good for going forth with. I have a lot to think about: Ei-Tio’s potential evil, betrayal, the fact that a few of my key players are goody-goodies, and the applications of my blood powers. Being evil is too hard sometimes. But it’s way more worth it than taking the easy way out. Goody-goodies are lazy.”
“And they tend to be massive hypocrites, too.”
La-Iin smirked. “They really do….night, Bes-Isa…”
“Yeah, bad night.”
La-Iin’s smirk persisted until she fell asleep. When Mit-Sun passed by her bedroom, she peeked in on her.

***

When La-Iin opened her eyes, immediately she was blinded by a bright orange flash. Curious, she peeked out the window. Two things immediately caught her eye–the disheveled state of the familiar Bledger streets, along with people running and screaming across them, and the building she was in. It looked more like the castle from her fantasies than her house.
“Do you like it, La-Iin?” La-Iin flinched. Behind her stood Mit-Sun, Asul-Zenza, Fer-Shi and San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina was sitting nearby, but his attention was focused on Choungetsu, who was licking his face so much La-Iin wondered if it might corrode.
“Like what? Where are we, Mama?”
“In our new house, of course!” Asul-Zenza said cheerfully. “When Mit-Sun and I decided to get back together, we thought the perfect present to celebrate wouldn’t be one for us, but instead one for you. So we gave you Bledger, Vaelyn!”
“They said me and my parents could stay here too so that we’re safe from all the wreck!” Fer-Shi said, sounding far more cheerful than she would expect her to in such a situation. La-Iin could feel her eyes widening at her father’s statement.
“What? But why–”
“Why is San-Kyung here?” Mit-Sun asked. “I think he can explain that one himself. Oh, I almost forgot. Catch!”
Mit-Sun tossed Bes-Isa in La-Iin’s direction, and she flew up to catch her. She glanced wildly between all the people there, desperate for more of an answer than what Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza had given her.
“I’m here because you’re my friend, duh,” San-Kyung said. “I had to barter with vuyong in order for your parents to let me bring Dosa-Mina along too, though.”
“That’s not the reason you told me you came here!” Dosa-Mina said cheerfully. San-Kyung’s face turned bright pink and he shook a fist in Dosa-Mina’s direction. Dosa-Mina was seemingly oblivious to this display of violence, and instead went back to giggling as Choungetsu resumed licking his face.
“This has to be a dream,” La-Iin mumbled to herself. It all seemed too surreal. Looking down at herself, and noticing how much she had to look up to meet the eyes of everyone save for Fer-Shi, she could tell she was still physically seven years old. If that was the case, not much time could have passed. Why would Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza want to be together again? What was San-Kyung getting so flustered about?
When she realized that, everything began to feel a bit surreal.
“La-Iin?”
“I wonder…” La-Iin walked away from the group of her loved ones and stared outside. She felt she had heard of this phenomena before. She tried to imagine the destruction outside as a happy field full of Buneties. It was incredibly difficult, but eventually she managed a scene much like what she imagined, and behind her she heard gasping.
She grinned to herself. ‘This is too strange, though.’ So instead she tried to imagine that Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza were not in the room. Suddenly, both of them got up and walked away. La-Iin smiled.
“San-Kyung, I know the reason you wanted to come here!”
“No you don’t!”
“Yes I do~” She walked up to him. “Finally, you reciprocate my feelings, but of course it’s in a f@%king dream! But at least if that’s the case, I can have a good dream and wake feeling refrustrated!”
“Refrustrated?” Fer-Shi asked. La-Iin felt her face flush. “You know what I mean.”
La-Iin flew up close to San-Kyung’s face. “I know what you want, San-Kyung. And that’s a good thing. Because I want it too.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, reverse pedo.”
“Yes you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be blushing like that. If one good thing has come from this dream, it’s you!”
La-Iin pulled San-Kyung’s face close and kissed him. She wasn’t quite sure how, but she could see behind her Fer-Shi vomiting. In front of her, Choungetsu had stopped licking Dosa-Mina’s face and was instead staring at her wide-eyed; Dosa-Mina had nearly the same expression on his face, though he seemed even more shocked than Choungetsu did.
The sight caused a sudden click in La-Iin’s mind. She pulled away from San-Kyung and stared at him.
“What the hell did you do that for!?”
“I don’t have time for you to play hot and cold with me, San-Kyung!” She flew away from him and stared out the window. The sight of the Buneties in the field had been replaced with the burning streets of Bledger once more. San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina ran up behind her; Fer-Shi was still vomiting, and Choungetsu ran to lick it up. La-Iin decided to imagine that Choungetsu chose to run away, and that Fer-Shi was in maid clothes and with cleaning supplies. She gave a sigh of relief and turned back to outside the window.
Something about that sight was stirring a strange feeling in her.
“San-Kyung, come here,” she said, pulling him close. San-Kyung seemed defiant, but obliged regardless. She wiggled free from San-Kyung’s grasp, then motioned to Dosa-Mina to stare in San-Kyung’s direction. He did not react save for staring at San-Kyung. La-Iin could imagine all the times he had started to hang all over San-Kyung; at those imaginations, Dosa-Mina did likewise.
“Hey, cut that out!”
“At least I’m not a little kid smooching you on the lips!”
San-Kyung’s face turned a darker pink. La-Iin barely noticed it. Instead she smirked, then pushed San-Kyung away from Dosa-Mina and hissed. “He’s mine, rival-boy! Don’t dare to try and recover what you used to have with him, because you have it no more!”
Both boys just stared at her in confusion.
“Um, La-Iin? Whose vomit is this?”
“Be quiet, Fer-Shi. I think I have an idea.” She stared out the window and smiled. “A big idea…”

—–
When La-Iin woke up, the memory of the dream was still fresh in her mind. She balled a hand into a fist.
“I was right. I am refrustrated!”
“Good morning, La-Iin. Is what I’d say if I wasn’t so mad at you! Must you roll over so much in your sleep? And what the hell did you just say? Seriously, I–WHOA!”
La-Iin jerked Bes-Isa out of bed and flew downstairs. She didn’t care if Mit-Sun saw, though her mother didn’t appear to notice. She had prepared breakfast, and La-Iin scarfed it down quickly. She sat at the table, waiting for Mit-Sun to leave, then left the house and walked over to Sale-Dessu’s.
“What are we going here for?”
“Be quiet. You’ll see soon enough.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t take long to open the door. With a quick greeting, he soon let La-Iin inside, and she took a deep breath once she was sitting down.
“Sale-Dessu, what do you know about lucid dreaming!?”
“Lucid dreaming?” Sale-Dessu seemed slightly confused. “I’ve never had a lucid dream myself…but when I think on it, it does somewhat remind me of an unfinished spell that Warlocks aren’t often told about.”
“Are you talking about what I think you are?” Eul-Bok said as he passed by the trio. “But you can’t go into your own dreams, can you? So it’s not–”
Sale-Dessu shushed him. “It’s not exactly the same thing, and the spell’s unfinished, so we don’t know of its applications anyway,” he whispered.
“There’s something else I want from you, Sale-Dessu. Are you willing to do some research for me?”
“Oh no, I’m not gonna let you make Father your little research guinea pig again!” Eul-Bok protested.
“I’m fine with doing that,” he said, motioning to Eul-Bok to calm down. “What do you need?”
“You know about the Vampire blood power? I want you to look into that for me. I want to research it myself, but I’m having a lot of difficulty. I figured you might be able to look into it for me.”
Sale-Dessu looked uncertain. “I’m not sure the results of research on that would be as good as what you asked for in the past…oh! I almost forgot!”
He handed her a bag. “I never did give you the books you asked for, but here they are. Take care of them, please. I’d have a lot of difficulty replacing them…”
“Yes, everyone knows this already.” La-Iin looked up at him. “I hate to say this. I really hate to say this, because I don’t like thanking anybody. But thank you, Sale-Dessu. You being my ally has led to many good things. And if my little hypothetical theory is correct…”
The smirk that started on La-Iin’s face sent a shiver down Sale-Dessu’s spine. “Oh–well–I’m happy to help. And I’ll see what I can do.”

3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30.576.Harem Master San-Kyung

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

26.572.Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 8

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 572
“Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 8”

“San-Kyung, is something the matter? You look a little down right now.”
“It’s nothing you’d care about.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus glanced at each other. “If our son’s upset of course it’s something we’d care about.”
“…”
“Come on, San-Kyung, please tell us what’s wrong.”
San-Kyung glared at them. “I don’t think you two would understand how hard it is when you’re evil and your parents are not.”
“Oh, is that all?” Salsh-Era asked.
“See, you don’t care.”
“We do care, San-Kyung. And we do understand. After all, we’re good and you’re evil. But this isn’t something we can change about ourselves. Isn’t it good enough that we let you be evil?”
“Yeah, that’s fine, but…” San-Kyung pressed his lips together. “I don’t get it. If I’m being raised by good parents, then according to school I should’ve ended up at least neutral. But I understand why I’m evil. And knowing that, I don’t understand why you two aren’t.”
“Well, all three of us are different people. And no matter what you learn at school, remember this: there are lots of families with good parents and evil children, and evil parents with good children!”
“It does depend, yes,” Salsh-Era said. “But maybe you shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, we are the Molsheis, and aside from that, your mother and I aren’t any strangers to evil…”
“What does that mean?”
“Salsh-Era, I don’t think that’s necessary to tell him,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Nah, I think he should hear it. But for your sake, Kyuusie, I’ll leave your story out of it. When I was a kid I actually had some trouble with my morality. Mostly because of circumstances at school.”
“How come I’ve never heard about this?”
“I didn’t think it was necessary to bring up.” He gave a nervous chuckle. “But now seems like the right time. Also, you didn’t seem interested in hearing about our past after you heard a few stories.”
“I would be interested in hearing something that has to do with you two being evil.”
“My story isn’t exactly about that,” Salsh-Era sighed. “But I think you might find it interesting anyway. But it was a long time ago. Back when this happened, I was younger than you are now. I think I was about nine years old…”

***

“Isn’t Molshei Dasdorian for evil?”
Salsh-Era had been worried he would hear that question. His parents had warned him before he started school about the possibility of the meaning of his name coming up. He had hoped against it, but now a young Catori boy approached him with the question.
“Um…yes,” he said. “Why?”
“Does that mean you’re evil?”
“No. The Molsheis are a good family, promise.”
“Are you sure?” Asked a Skeletaltype with hair in messy ponytails. “You’re Dasdorian, right?”
“I’m descended from Dasdorians.”
“My mom told me that Dasdoria is where evil comes from!” She said. “So are you really really sure?”
“Yeah! I’m good, not evil. Evil people are just horrible.”
His classmates glanced among each other. “Okay, Molshei, we believe you. Well, see you tomorrow!”
“See you!” Salsh-Era gave a content sigh. ‘That wasn’t too bad!’ Happy, he head home with a skip in his gait.

That calm would not last forever.
“I didn’t take your stupid dolly! Why are you even bringing dollies to school anyway!? You’re nine! And besides, when you’re nine, you barely even call them dollies anymore. You call them dolls.
“Why did I see my dolly’s dress in your book, then?”
“Ugh! It’s a bookmark, stupid! Just because it looks like your dolly’s dress doesn’t mean it is your dolly’s dress!”
Watching the two girls fight, Salsh-Era couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. ‘I don’t think Jiheni took Ygori’s doll, but how could I show that without them getting the wrong idea’
He watched their fight closely, thinking up something he could do to help them, when he spotted Ygori reaching up a hand. Panicked, he ran for her and reached for her hands. His hand scraped against one of her claws and he recoiled.
“Molshei, don’t butt in!” Moments after she said that, Jiheni screamed. From Salsh-Era’s injured hand, flames were spurting forth. Jiheni and Ygori, along with their classmates nearby them, recoiled. They began to yell and shriek and cry while Salsh-Era set to work putting his hand-fire out.
“What’s going on in here!?” A teacher yelled, then gasped. “Molshei! What did I tell you all about using powers in school?”
“I hurt myself!” He said.
“That’s not true! I saw him! He struck his hand when he was tryin’ to stop Ygori from hitting me!”
The teacher narrowed her eyes. “Molshei, you don’t stop violence with more violence. That’s ridiculous.”
“But I wasn’t–”
Under her breath, Salsh-Era caught the teacher mumble, “What was I expecting from a Dasdorian, though…”
Salsh-Era put his hand flame out and head back to his seat with his head lowered. The gazes of his classmates meant nothing to him–they couldn’t send his mood lower than it already was.

The whole incident gave Salsh-Era a new reputation at school.
“Molshei really means something!” One student said. “Did you know it’s Dasdorian for evil? And that’s just what Molshei is!”
“I heard he tried to set Ygori on fire!”
“What!? I heard he was trying to set the desk on fire!”
“I heard he was trying to set them both on fire!”
“Those are the kinds of things they keep saying!” Salsh-Era complained. “And…and I don’t know how to prove it otherwise. I just don’t know…I don’t want them to think I’m evil.”
“You might be able to get away with them thinking you’re evil.”
“What!?”
“Er, what Nienie Kigyuk is trying to say is, sometimes they won’t care if you’re evil or not.”
“Not at this school! And I’m not evil!”
“You know, that gives me an idea, now that you’ve said it,” Kigyuk said. “Salsh-Era, if you really want to be seen as good, why don’t you show that you can embrace the evil?”
“How’s that going to help!?”
“I think Nienie Kigyuk means by showing that you love even evil people.”
“People will only think I’m even more evil if I do that. You have bad ideas.”
“Salsh-Era, I don’t know if you realized, but a lot of evil people don’t actually like each other.”
“How would you know?”
“I grew up in the evil part of town,” his mother said with a grin. “Well, anyway, you’re not going to prove that you’re not evil by getting hot-headed about it. Give those kids some proof otherwise. But really, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do this.”
“I wouldn’t if they would believe me,” he sighed. “I told them I was good. I told them…they’re just two-faced and stupid. I bet they’re the actually evil ones.”
“People can be two-faced sometimes, Salsh-Era, but you need to give them a chance. Don’t let this incident make you think everyone is like this.”
“Even the teachers don’t believe me, though. So what am I supposed to think? Nobody gives me a chance, so why should I give them a chance?”
“Do you want us to pull you out of that school?” His mother asked. Salsh-Era deliberated the idea. He could imagine starting anew in a different school where the students didn’t care about his last name–but at the same time, he could imagine the situation being worse, in which they cared about his last name so much it wouldn’t matter what he did, they would never believe that he was not evil.
“No. You know what? I am going to prove to them that I’m good. If I transfer, they’ll just think that I’m evil and that’s why I left. But I’m going to show them. And maybe I’ll use a bit of Nienie Kigyuk’s idea.”
Kigyuk smiled.
‘But what should I do? What could I do that would make them believe I’m good without a doubt?’

School was abuzz with noise when Salsh-Era arrived, and before entering the classroom he listened out to hear if any of it was about him. He was unsure of whether to be relieved or worried when he discovered that with so many voices contributing to the noise he could barely understand what they were talking about.
The teacher was nowhere to be seen in the hallway, so when Salsh-Era entered the classroom he took his place behind the teacher’s desk and cleared his throat.
“Molshei’s tryin’ to be our teacher!” One student yelled.
“No, I’m not. I wanted to tell everyone here something.”
The students watched him with mostly blank expressions, though Salsh-Era spotted a few who looked uneasy.
“Everyone at this school seems to think I’m evil, at least in this class. And I can tell you, just ’cause my name’s Molshei it doesn’t make me evil, and I just hurt my hand that time when the flames came out. But I realized there’s no way you can believe me. After all, people do things for their own reasons, and you never do actually know if an evil person would do something good for their own gains, or if someone good would do something evil when they’re desperate.”
“So you are evil?” A student asked.
“I’m not. I’m good. But I understand there’s no way you can believe me. So believe what you want, just don’t hurt me, okay?”
“Molshei?” The teacher asked. “What are you doing behind my desk?”
“Um, nothing!” Salsh-Era head back to his seat. The teacher gave him a curious look.
“Sorry I was mean to you before, Molshei,” Jiheni said. “I understand now. You’re neutral and that’s okay.”
“But I’m not…” Salsh-Era sighed. “Oh, well, whatever you think.”

***

“…”
“Er, why are you looking at me like that?”
“So…you thought people were two-faced too…”
“For a time, yes. But not everyone’s that way.”
San-Kyung huffed. “That Nienie-Kigyuk sounds like an idiot.”
“Hey, don’t insult my Nienie! And it doesn’t have a hyphen.”
“Maybe I should tell you my story,” Del-Kyuus said. “I think you’ll find that one interesting.”
“What, mine wasn’t?”
“It was disappointing. And I find it hard to believe that Mom would have any evil in her. You didn’t really.”
“Actually, mine is a lot different than Salsh-Era’s. When mine happened I was a bit closer to your age, but I wasn’t a teenager just yet. Almost, but not yet. And twelve-year-old me, she would have loved to have been a Molshei back then, trust me!”

***

“Zahelahe sure is demure, isn’t she?”
Del-Kyuus overheard the comment while preparing treats in Home EC. She smiled to herself and continued to work.
“Yeah, sure is. It’s kinda weird. I never really expected an Animated Pumpkin to be like that. What with their faces and all…”
‘I wonder why they’re talking about me?’ Del-Kyuus didn’t mind the attention, but the conversation piqued her interest. She couldn’t remember having done something to garner attention.
It didn’t matter moments later: her treat was finished and the conversation had changed. The teacher took a bite of her cookies.
“Hm, those are pretty good. I’m surprised. Did you taste these?”
“I always taste them!”
He smiled. “Zahelahe, you’re one of the most talented Home EC students. It’s weird, because, ah…excuse my indelicacy, but Animated Pumpkins don’t eat, do they?”
“That’s not indelicate! We don’t have to eat, but we always can!” She said cheerfully. “And you never know when you’re going to marry that special someone and they’re a different species than you!”
The teacher chuckled. “I suppose you have a point there. Though that isn’t all that common.”
“Well, it’s a possibility, isn’t it?”
He nodded, then went to check on the other students. Del-Kyuus was beaming. ‘Maybe I don’t need to eat, but if I did marry someone who does, that would be so nice. I love cooking so much, it’d be so fun!’
She could almost imagine herself serving a Werewolf man a large meal. ‘Of course, I wouldn’t want to gorge him…’

That day, when Del-Kyuus was heading home from school, her friend Bigyore accompanied her. Del-Kyuus wondered if she was concerned about something–the look on her face seemed to imply as much.
“How do you put up with all this demure stuff, Zahelahe?”
“What are you talking about, demure stuff?”
“You’re the epitome of demure when you don’t need to be! You cook, you clean, you talk about marriage, you’re super-demure, everyone’s noticed! Haven’t you realized that the time Huufa asked you to help with his homework he was taking advantage of you?”
“He was just asking for help.”
“No, I saw him cheating on the answers. Look, I’m worried about you! Sure, I guess it’s okay to like dresses and all that stuff, but you’re gonna get taken advantage of! And you don’t need to eat in the first place, so why do you cook so damn much!?”
“You really shouldn’t say damn, Bigyore.” Del-Kyuus covered her mouth. “Oops!”
“Girly and demure is a stupid thing to be. All it is is a detriment. Be yourself, Zahelahe, but I’m tellin’ you, sooner or later someone’s gonna use your behavior as a loophole in order to take advantage of you. Maybe even your future husband!”
“I’m smart enough to notice when someone’s taking advantage of me, Bigyore!”
“Yeah, you say,” she sighed. “Just take my word. Demure is a detriment. So try and toughen up a little, alright?”
“I think I’m fine the way I am.”
“If you say so…”

Ultimately, Del-Kyuus was unswayed by Bigyore’s concerns. ‘I’m smart enough to know if someone’s taking advantage of me. i’m not stupid! She just thinks that demure equals stupid, I bet! Just because she’s a tomboy…’
“Hey, Zahelahe!”
“Mm? What is it, Huufa?”
“Home EC is soon, an’ I need your help,” he said. “Could you show me how to make those cookies you’re always making? I’d like to make some cookies and put my own spin on them, but I don’t even know where to start! I thought you’d be a big help.”
“Sure, I’d love to help you!”
Huufa smiled. “Thanks, Zahelahe!”

“So, I like to use chocolate in my cookies, but you might also like to use vanilla. Ooh, vanilla cookies are so good!”
“I see,” he said. “Can I watch you make them? I learn a little better watching than doing, eheh.”
“Okay!”
Del-Kyuus set to work on making the cookies. “Remember to taste them. Otherwise they sometimes end up tasting a little strange!”
“You taste them while they’re still uncooked like that?”
“Yes.”
“Isn’t it bad for Animated Pumpkins to eat?”
“No, it’s just unnecessary.”
Del-Kyuus began to cook the cookies. “Even if you set a timer, you should always watch them, even when you get really good at making cookies. You never know when you’ll need to adjust the timing!”
“I see!”
When the cookies were finished, Huufa took one and bit out of it.
“Wow, that’s good! Thanks, Zahelahe! Hey, um…can I use these?”
Del-Kyuus blinked. “Why?”
“I’m kinda out of supplies…”
“It’s cheating to use someone else’s cookies, you know,” she scolded. “You won’t win any points for that!”
“Is everyone done with their Home EC projects?”
“I am!” Huufa said. He took the vanilla cookies from Del-Kyuus. Del-Kyuus watched as the teacher bit into them and smiled.
“He just took them….”
“Haven’t you realized that the time Huufa asked you to help with his homework he was taking advantage of you?”
“Demure is a detriment.”

Del-Kyuus lowered her head. ‘Maybe Bigyore had a point. Maybe I really am easy to take advantage of…maybe, I need to change that.’
As she watched the teacher compliment Huufa on her cookies, a dull rage began to stir in her.

“Who is that!? Is that Zahelahe?”
Del-Kyuus had come to school the next day wearing torn-up black clothes. She had decorated her face with paint. The students around her were confused by her new look, but they were even more confused by her new behavior.
“Zahelahe, you shouldn’t wear torn-up clothes to school!”
“Suck on yourself!”
“Wh-what!?”
“Um, Zahelahe–” Bigyore whispered. “This is not what I meant by toughening up!”
“Shut up, Bigyore. I didn’t do this for you.”
While thinking on what she could do to keep herself from being taken advantage of, she thought of giving herself a tough look and acting tough. She had figured it would be enough initially, but just before she went to school she had decided to add in a new, evil behavior.
‘Evil people are the people who take advantage, not those who get taken advantage of,’ she thought. ‘It’s perfect.’
She knew her classmates wouldn’t believe her without actions, however. That was something she quickly set to work with. She created grass knots using her vines, picked fights with other students, destroyed parts of the school and nearly set Home EC on fire with the power of her flames.
At the end of the day Del-Kyuus felt satisfied. She could see that her classmates were terrified of her.
‘Bigyore was right, but she had the wrong idea. This power over the other students is pretty amazing.’
She chuckled to herself. ‘I bet I could even control them. No wonder people go evil sometimes! It’s such a rush.’

Del-Kyuus wouldn’t feel so positively about her new behavior forever.
Ever since becoming evil, she felt as though she had a new power over her classmates–the look she saw on Huufa’s face each time she entered the classroom excited her. Her parents would kowtow to her and she could get what she wanted. Even her teachers, who were more stern with her, were starting to let up, and she felt she could get away with nearly anything.
Yet despite the rush of power, there was another feeling that had come along with the transition. She felt as though she were behaving artificially. Occasionally she would find herself daydreaming back on the days she was baking cookies in Home EC and creating small trinkets for her family. She always tried to push the thoughts away, but they were somewhat pervasive.
‘What’s the point in going back to that way of acting? I can have anything I want now! …I guess that’s not exactly true if I can’t do what I used to anymore…’
Del-Kyuus tried to translate the feeling into something else. It gave her a taste for something sweet, and she prepared to cut in line for a stand that advertised ‘hotteok-like waffles’.
“You know, it’s so weird. I know this neutral girl who got married recently. She’s all untrusting of her husband and stuff. And I’m thinkin’, why marry him if yer not gonna trust him?”
“Yeah.”
“I seen it a bit with those types,” the man sighed. “Weird. You’d think two evil people would be the first not to trust each other.”
“We’re different from goody-goodies and neutrals. We’re careful about who we put our trust in. You should know that.”
“I would, if I put my trust in more people than just you.”
When Del-Kyuus overheard the last part of the conversation, she stopped herself from cutting in line and felt as though something had clicked.
‘Those men over there are evil, aren’t they? Yet they’re conversing like friends and…oh my gosh, they actually paid for the waffle!’
It seemed to be a revelation. ‘Just because they’re evil they don’t give up on friendship. They’re just careful about who they put their trust in. Evil didn’t make them all different. They’re still normal. I bet even they get taken advantage of sometimes…’
Del-Kyuus smiled to herself. ‘Boy, I’ve been acting pretty silly, huh?’

“Huh? Zahelahe’s not wearing torn up clothes?”
“Hi,” Del-Kyuus said shyly. “S-sorry about recently. I was kind of going through a phase…”
The students gave her an uncertain glance.
“Attention-grabbing phase?”
“Y-yeah, you could say it’s like that.”
Near the edge of the crowd Del-Kyuus noticed Huufa staring at her with wide eyes. He bolted off towards the school. “I would’ve kept going like that, but I realized I need to be my authentic self. Evil people are. Not all of them put on acts just because they’re evil. And I realize my authentic self is pretty goody-goody, but it’s who I like to be!”
Bigyore sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t have given you so much trouble, either. You acting like that made me think…being demure’s definitely a lot better than being evil. I’ll take demure Zahelahe over evil Zahelahe any day.”
“So will I!”

—–
“…”
“And that’s my story. So maybe now you understand. Even though I do wish sometimes you were born good, I’m okay with you being evil so long as you’re being your authentic self. …and not murdering anybody. I draw the line there.”
“I can’t believe it…”
“Well, I guess we are the Molsheis,” Salsh-Era sighed. “Kid me would have killed me for saying this, but it’s not too surprising we’ve had brushes with evil.”
“I was still Zahelahe Del-Kyuus when that happened!”
“Geez…”
“What is it, San-Kyung?”
“Nothing. Just…”
“Are you smiling?” Del-Kyuus said.
San-Kyung looked away from them. “Just…it made me a bit happy to hear that story, that’s all. I wish you had stayed evil, Mom.”
“Well, I’m more me this way,” she said. “And you know what? That’s fine. Like I said, I wish sometimes you had been born good. But we can’t change who we are!”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“Although you can try, you two,” he said. “I’m not trying to say anything bad. Just saying, you should be who you want to be, but if you aren’t already, there’s always room to try and become that person!”
“Yeah…I guess it can go both ways, huh?” San-Kyung cracked a smile. To him, their advice almost sounded as if it were directed at his primary problem. He kept this thought silent, however.

21.567.Operation Reboot

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 567
“Operation Reboot”

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, San-Kyung was startled alert by a sudden phone call.
“Hiii, San-Kyung! Hope I didn’t wake you up too suddenly!”
“I wasn’t asleep, though if I was tired before I’m not now,” he said. “What are you calling for?”
“Tell me, San-Kyung, if I said I had something to talk with you about, where would you say we should talk about it at? At your house? At mine? Ooh, maybe at Hledshess!?”
“Why can’t we talk about it over the phone? I have nothing better to do.”
“Because I feel like seeing you. After yesterday I have to admit, it can be pretty lonely when you’re home alone and both your parents work. You’re lucky, having a stay-at-home mom.”
“You might not consider it so lucky with some of the things she says. …do I have to pick?”
“You know, if you’re feeling lazy you could just ask me to come over there. With jumps like mine it’s not that long a trip.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine, come over here, then. I’ll see you soon, I guess.”
“I’ll have to get ready first, but you’ll definitely see me within the hour! Until then, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina hung up. ‘He sounded pretty excited. I wonder what’s going on.’
Even though he was curious about what had Dosa-Mina so riled up, at the same time he felt uneasy. He knew Dosa-Mina could be cheerful, but after the strange way he had been acting and incidents such as his cutting or Airy-Aekok, Dosa-Mina’s hyper-cheerful attitude sent off warning signals for San-Kyung.
‘He acted like that before when he had problems. I wonder if something’s wrong.’
“San-Kyung, dear? Are you feeling thirsty? I poured you a glass of water, if you’d like.”
San-Kyung pushed the thought aside and head to the dining room. “I can pour my own glasses of water, you know.”
“I know, I just thought it would get your attention.”
“Hm.” San-Kyung took a sip.
“Were you talking to Dosa-Mina?”
“How could you tell?”
“It’s always obvious when you are, San-Kyung. You seem to, ah, raise your voice a little while talking over the phone.”
“…I was getting to that, anyway.”
“What is it?”
“Dosa-Mina said he’s going to come over.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Though I really wish he’d ask for my permission sometimes instead of yours.”
“He’s not good, Mom.”
“Yes, but he isn’t evil, either. Oh well, I guess I’ll never understand neutrals.”

Dosa-Mina arrived in the midst of a mundane conversation between San-Kyung and Del-Kyuus, bringing with him a large bag.
“What did you bring, Dosa-Mina?” Del-Kyuus asked.
“Oh, nothing really. Just some stuff that’s relevant to what I came over for. But that’s all stuff that only San-Kyung would care about!”
“It isn’t nefarious, is it?”
“Mrs. Molshei, when it comes to nefarious you should be looking closer at your own son rather than his best friend,” he said coyly. “Now, if there’s nothing else for you to do, come along, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina led the way to San-Kyung’s bedroom. “I know where my bedroom is, by the way.”
“I’m aware, but I intend on taking the lead in this little venture.”
“What are you planning?”
“You’ll see.” Dosa-Mina glanced around San-Kyung’s room. “Geez, you know, when it’s been a bit since you’ve been in someone’s room, it can give you a really different perspective of them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?”
“Your room looks like an emo’s room, that’s what it means. Seriously, how come your walls aren’t painted red? Isn’t that your favorite color?”
“It is. But this was cheaper. That’s what my parents said, anyway.”
“Oh, so it’s their fault.” Dosa-Mina put the bag on his bed. “Ah, that feels a lot better!”
“So?”
“Well, I’m gonna get to it, but you have to promise me you’re not going to start acting weird because of anything I say.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “If you’re getting the wrong idea, stop it. It’s because this little thing deals with your true form. That’s why I said this.”
San-Kyung relaxed. “Bringing that up again, aren’t you…”
“This time it’s a lot more positive than before. Instead of getting upset about what the paper said, I decided to take some action. You see, the paper may have rendered the certain methods we were looking at as ineffective, but when I put some thought and study into it, I realized that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible for you to have another way to transform.”
“I doubt it’s possible.”
“Don’t doubt now! I know when something’s not possible, San-Kyung. You know what’s not possible? A non-avian spontaneously sprouting wings and flying. This one is debatable. Perhaps there’s something we missed. We were pretty focused on La-Iin being the trigger, after all. But now we need to look at things differently and closely, and by the way San-Kyung, if you could be in your true form all the time but you wouldn’t get the power boost, how would you feel about that?”
“Huh?”
“If you could transform physically but you were still, y’know, weak in November.”
San-Kyung’s expression became blank. “Because that could be a possibility.”
“It’s better than what I have now,” he said. “Is that possible?”
“Well, I was looking into it as a possibility. You see, I haven’t done much research on Witches and Warlocks because there’s just so much stuff on them it’s annoying to sift through it all! But I realized it could be a possibility. And if I find out that it’s possible, I’ll tell you how to do it right away.”
“As much as I’d love the power, if I could at least look like myself…”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “I understand how you feel. Sort of. But I thought this project should be started because it isn’t hopeless yet. We just got side-tracked because all our hard work was for nothing. But just because that was a waste doesn’t make it impossible. And we’ve had our time to get our frustration out. Now it’s time to get back to work, and this project, I dub it ‘Operation Reboot’!”
“Did you have to give it a ridiculous name like that?”
“I figured it might lighten the mood if I did.”
“Well, you might just be wasting your time with ‘Operation Reboot’ as well,” San-Kyung said. “Just as you’re saying that it might be possible we overlooked something with our one-track search it could be possible there’s nothing to find and that this will only waste more of our time.”
“San-Kyung…”
“But, if you’re right and there’s a chance that another method is possible, then I don’t mind going along with whatever ridiculous scheme you dream up. It’s been hard for me lately to get motivated…the idea of having to go through November while I follow through with my goal always seemed like a major disadvantage. But I don’t want to be like that. And maybe it won’t be easy, but I’ll take a chance if it’s there.”
“There’s the San-Kyung I know and love,” Dosa-Mina said. “Where have you been hiding all this year?”
“All this year?”
“The whole, er, cutting thing at the beginning of the year kinda soured your mood too.”
“Yeah, well, I know I need to try and do better than I have been. So…I guess that makes ‘Operation Reboot’ a go. It’s weird, considering the original plan you didn’t want anything to do with at first.”
“People can change, and people can be pushed to do some pretty out-of-character things for the people they care about. But I’m glad, San-Kyung. So I’ll keep looking! I haven’t been doing as much species study as I had been in the past too. Both of us have been pretty off. So this is our chance to get back to where we were before!”
“Yeah!”
“So let’s do this!”
San-Kyung clenched a fist. “Operation Reboot is a go! We start immediately!”
“Immediately? I didn’t bring any books!”
“That doesn’t matter! The project’s started now and there’s no going back.”
Dosa-Mina opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the door opening.
“Mom?”
“Sorry, I heard you two yelling and I wanted to make sure everything was alright,” Del-Kyuus said. “But it looks like everything’s fine!”
“You didn’t need to worry at all, Mrs. Molshei. I think things are better than they have been in a while!”
“I agree.”
Del-Kyuus narrowed her eyes. “I’m not taking your word on that until I see some actual evidence!”
“Well, hopefully you’ll get to see that soon.” To the surprise of both Dosa-Mina and Del-Kyuus, San-Kyung cracked a smile.

—–
“San-Kyung, your father is–what happened!?”
“We got into a bit of a scuffle, Mrs. Molshei,” Dosa-Mina said. He was covered in dust and Del-Kyuus could spot what appeared to be a bruise on his face. “But nothing major.”
“A scuffle!?”
“Yeah, like the early days,” San-Kyung said. Del-Kyuus gave an exasperated sputter.
“How is that a good thing!?”
“It’s not really. But at least it tells me I haven’t lost San-Kyung yet!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean I still see some of those traits I thought you’d lost!” He giggled. Though he smiled and spoke with a happy tone, San-Kyung noticed discomfort in his eyes, and all at once his feeling of unease returned.

20.566.Drug of Choice

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 566
“Drug of Choice”

“I wish I had the powers of a Warlock sometimes! They can do so many interesting things. And they have such a wide range of abilities that just reading about it in a book doesn’t give me anything close to the kind of information I want!”
“That’s strange, coming from the boy who doesn’t even like to acknowledge his real species,” Elai-Riya said.
“I use my powers plenty.”
“I know, I know.”
“They can do all sorts of cool things,” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Just think, they haven’t even tapped into their full potential yet…”
Before Elai-Riya could respond, someone knocked at the door. “I hope that’s not Orlin-Aesth. He knows I go to work almost right after he leaves.” She fluttered over to the door. Dosa-Mina tried to glance past her to see who was there.
“Oh, hello, San-Kyung. It’s good to see you.”
“…”
“Something wrong?”
“No. Dosa-Mina’s in, right?”
“Yeah, he is.”
“San-Kyung, is that you?”
Elai-Riya moved to the side and Dosa-Mina caught sight of his friend. He walked up to him and hugged him. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“I have something I need to talk with you about.”
“Ooh, I wonder what,” Dosa-Mina said. ‘Hopefully that’s not anything about cutting…’
“Looks like you won’t have to be alone while I’m gone, Dosa-Mina.”
“I wouldn’t have been alone even if he hadn’t come over. Sirlie-Baecho doesn’t live that far away from us.”
“I know, but it seems like you barely hang out with her anymore.” Elai-Riya sighed. “I should go now. I’ll see you when I get back.”
“Alright. And cheer up, Mom! There’s no need to be so jealous of me. Come a few years and I’ll be doing a job just like you.”
“It’s certainly disheartening,” Elai-Riya grumbled. “If you’re willing to say that, I hope you’re willing to listen to some complaints later on tonight!”
“Um, that depends.”
Elai-Riya scoffed and head out the door. Dosa-Mina let go of San-Kyung.
“Any reason you needed to hold onto me for that whole conversation?”
“Nope! Alright, I know my parents aren’t here right now, but let’s head to my room. It’s comfy in there.”
Both boys head off to Dosa-Mina’s room. ‘Something seems like it’s bothering him.’ As soon as they arrived, Dosa-Mina flopped onto the floor. “What’s up?”
“I have a bit of a problem.”
“Oh, what’d you go and do now? And without me? This doesn’t have to do with the car, does it?”
“Why do you keep bringing up the car? I haven’t used that in a while. No, it’s not that.”
San-Kyung placed a pill on Dosa-Mina’s table. Dosa-Mina examined it closely. “Is this a…a power strengthening drug!? What did I tell you about this, San-Kyung!?”
“I haven’t taken it, have I!? And I don’t have any more, so don’t bother asking. I didn’t intend on taking it. Not really, anyway.”
“San-Kyung, your desperation is turning you to things you’d have never considered in the past.”
“I’m not considering it now!”
“Don’t get so defensive! Look, I’m going to destroy this somewhere away from home. I don’t need my parents thinking I’m looking to take power-increasing drugs.”
He glared at San-Kyung. “But first, tell me where you found it.”
“I was taking a walk nearby Hledshess and I spotted it on the ground. I was curious as to whether or not it actually was one, so I took it home with me. I was going to get rid of it myself either way, but I thought I should come to you. I know how you felt about this subject when it came up the first time.”
Dosa-Mina relaxed. That San-Kyung had opted to come to him for advice in this situation made him feel immensely relieved. “Thank you, San-Kyung. …but you saying you should come to me, that means it crossed your mind to take this, didn’t it.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Look, San-Kyung, you’re aware of what these things do to you, right?”
“I actually read up on that recently. It doesn’t matter that they increase your powers, because afterwards you just get weak again. I want you to believe me on this, Dosa-Mina. There’s no way I would take a bit of time to be in my true form only to spend more in November mode.”
“Is that all you read? Because it’s a lot worse than that.”
“How would you know?”
“Power-increasing drugs come up sometimes in species study books. Remember, most of the species have powers. They also wreck the parts of your body from which the powers come from. Know how striking your hand sets any blood you draw on fire? That wouldn’t happen anymore if you took those drugs. And since there are all types of different ones for all the species, you realize that if this is not one for Animated Pumpkins, had you taken it the effects would have been much worse?”
San-Kyung began to look concerned. “There are actually ones that are supposed to work for all the species, but I heard that those are the worst of all. They really mess you up. And I don’t even know if taking those drugs would really transform you in the first place. Even if they could, it would probably take a large amount of those things to actually do it, and the length of your transformation could be incredibly short followed by such a sudden decrease in power that it would make November look like October.”
San-Kyung flinched. “Of course, a lot of those are worst case scenarios, but do you want to risk it? Really, taking the wrong type of drug can mess with you. And a lot of these tend to kill your powers pretty badly, depending on what they are. You take a few of these and you can say good-bye to raising vines from the ground. That’s how bad it can get. I don’t think I even need to get into the possibility of death that exists in these things. Remember, we made a promise.”
“I remember. But I told you before you went off on this tangent. Just the idea of taking one and going from power to November faster than I actually do on November 1st turned me away. And besides, there were a lot of other factors too–”
“My problem is that you considered it! Powers were not meant to be influenced by drugs. They’re a part of us that can really mess with the rest of us if we mess with them in the wrong ways. A lot of drugs out there can already mess up the other parts. So messing up your powers and letting that spread…I wouldn’t want you ending up with leukemia or something like that…”
“Could you even get leukemia from these drugs?”
“I–I don’t know. But I wouldn’t risk it anyway.” Dosa-Mina sucked in a breath. “Sorry, San-Kyung. You came here to get my advice, and instead I just got on your case for doing that. I’ve just been worried. This behavior has been going on for a while now. You’ve been acting so odd, and I know why, but I just feel like everything I’ve done or can do is a temporary fix. Nothing actually brings you out of this mindset. More than ever, I really want you to cheer up. To go back to the way you were.”
San-Kyung remained silent. “This is the tipping point. What if it gets worse from here? Remember, you still have your goal of world domination. You shouldn’t give up on that because you can’t get your true form!”
“Like you would even want me to pursue that.”
“I’ll take that over this! All I would want is to be safe. That, and for my family to be safe. And I know you care about me. I trust that they would be.”
Dosa-Mina’s hands balled into fists. “I need to do something about this. I’ll destroy this drug, San-Kyung, and you can stay if you want, but if you’re ready to go home, then go. I have to formulate a plan.”
“Dosa-Mina, you don’t have to bother. I–”
“Don’t tell me not to, San-Kyung. Right now, your well-being is my biggest concern.” He smiled. “While I think over a few things, why don’t you have something to drink? After all, I guess it has been pretty lonely all by myself when my parents are at work. Make yourself comfortable, because something tells me I’m going to have a lot of ideas for something fun to do to pass the time!”
“Dosa-Mina?”
“Come on, up off the floor, I’m going to make you something that’s tastier to drink than just water. Warm or cold?”
“Uh…”
“Well, I’ll just make both, then!” He pulled San-Kyung out his bedroom, then head for the kitchen.
‘What was that all about?’ San-Kyung wondered. ‘I’ve seen him go from one attitude to the other, but never that fast…he must really be concerned.’
At this point, however, San-Kyung saw no point in questioning him about it. ‘With how little Dosa-Mina’s willing to tell me on a daily basis, he’d just dodge this one.’ Opting to go along with it, he head for the table and sat down.

—–
“I’m hoooome…and exhausted,” Orlin-Aesth breathed. “Dosa-Mina, where are you?”
“Right here, Dad,” he said. “I’ve been having some fun with San-Kyung while you and Mom have been at work.”
“Appropriate fun, right?” Orlin-Aesth said coyly.
“Of course! Geez, everyone thinks just ’cause I’m affectionate that means I’m a pervert! But you know I wouldn’t be inappropriate, right, San-Kyung?”
“Not in the way everyone seems to think, no.”
“Aha ha, just picking on you, son. I know you wouldn’t. Or, at least, I hope I know you that well.”
Sitting next to each other, both boys felt in a better mood than earlier, but both also felt the same feeling of unease, as if something about the situation was wrong.

Late that night, after his parents had gone to bed, Dosa-Mina took the drug outside and stepped on it repeatedly until it was so ground that he couldn’t even spot it in the moonlight. Then he head back inside, yawning.

18.564.Plans for the People

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13.559.To Find Enjoyment

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 559
“To Find Enjoyment”

“La-Iin, why are you huffing like that?”
“Mama, I’ve realized something. You never did experience true love, did you?”
“What!? I don’t want to hear that coming from your mouth.”
“Why not?”
“Because I know who you’re talking about. Besides, you’re seven. It’s just weird.”
“Age doesn’t matter to me, Mama.”
Mit-Sun’s expression became one of concern.
“Fine, I won’t talk about it. But you asked why I was huffing like that, and that’s why! Also it’s too hot in here! Why’d you have to go and make something so hot for breakfast when it’s so hot outside?”
“I had a taste for it!” Mit-Sun groaned. She continued to grumble as she finished her breakfast.
“I have to go to work today.”
“I know. I certainly am lucky, having a school break.”
“You could bother doing your homework, I hope you know. Asking you to be good is like asking you to do something horrible, but don’t set the house on fire, alright?”
“I’m not an Animated Pumpkin, Mama. Besides, have I ever done anything like that?”
“No, not really, and you’ve been fairly good during Summer break–don’t look at me like that, you know what I mean. But having certain conversations with you makes me wary sometimes.”
“Don’t be wary. Of course I’ll be one-hundred-percent innocent. I’ll just talk with Bes-Isa and play with Choungetsu and his toys, maybe listen to some music and draw! Perfectly innocent.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “That tone you’re using makes me think you’re lying. But I’m gonna have to give you the benefit of the doubt, since I’ve gotta get going. Just don’t hurt yourself, alright?”
“Now you don’t have to worry about that, Mama. I’m powerful. I’ll be fine.”
“Uh-huh.” Mit-Sun slipped on her shoes. “See you later, La-Iin.” She head out the door.
La-Iin sat there, a mischievous grin on her face. Choungetsu walked over to her with a toy in his mouth.
“There’s no time to play, Choungetsu. But how would you like to accompany me on a little journey again?”
Choungetsu gave a confused whimper. “I know I saw him just yesterday, but San-Kyung’s been on my mind lately. After all, I had luck with Mama turning down Haner. Maybe soon enough, I’ll have luck with San-Kyung finally realizing my true charms!”

***

“Finished your homework early, huh, San-Kyung?”
“I finished most of it.”
“He’s been working hard since Summer started! Though he did play with Dosa-Mina a bit yesterday.”
“Huh. Good for you, balancing fun and work. Wish I knew how to do that better!” Salsh-Era tightened his tie. “Well, I suppose I should be going. I’ll see you two later!” He pat San-Kyung on the head and gave Del-Kyuus a kiss on the cheek.
“Do you have to do that, Dad?”
“The kiss or the pat?” He asked coyly. “Either way, yes. Well, I’ll see you two later!”
Del-Kyuus waved as Salsh-Era head out the door. “So, San-Kyung, what are you planning on doing today?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I hope you don’t plan on just lying around doing nothing! Maybe you’d like to play with me?”
“I’m not really in the mood for playing…maybe I’ll just finish my homework and study a bit. School’s not all that hard for me but I think they were giving me Grade 12 sheets starting this year…they really overestimate me.”
“I don’t think they overestimate you, San-Kyung. You’re a self-made smart boy, and I’m sure you’ll put those smarts to use.”
‘If you only knew in what way,’ he wanted to say, but he bit his tongue and kept from saying it. ‘Not like that’s gonna help me with what I really want, anyway…’
“I think I will study a bit more,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do something later, Mom.”
“Alright! Maybe later we can go out and get something special to drink! Just me and you, San-Kyung.”
“Yeah right.”
Even having cheered up since that fateful day in May, it was often that San-Kyung would dwell back on the paper that seemed to mark his dream as impossible. As desperate as he was to search for some other method, he was scared that it would all be in vain just like his previous idea, that nothing would come of it. In his deepest moments of desperation he had considered using the power drugs he had heard about, but had been thoroughly turned away by the idea of finding dealers and the after-effects of weakness.
So he studied in silence, looking for something new to read over, when something slammed against his window.
“Agh!”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung?”
“Er–” Narrowing his eyes, he yelled, “No!”
“You sure?”
“Yes!” He stood up and head for the door. “I’m going to go and check something, Mom.”
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong? You seem frazzled.”
“I’m sure.” He head out the door and stomped over to his window.
“What the hell are you doing here!?”
“I wanted to see you again,” La-Iin said. San-Kyung noticed she seemed well-prepared for visiting him. Her dog’s leash tied tightly around her waist, she was holding a CD Player and the script for Isle of the Sirens was under her arm. Over her shoulder she was wearing a bag that seemed to be stuffed full of things he couldn’t see.
“What’d you bring all the stuff for!?”
“Well, yesterday your only option of something to do was to act in Isle of the Sirens. I wanted to give you more options and show you a good time!”
San-Kyung slapped his forehead. “Go away.”
“No. I lugged all of this all this way and I even brought Choungetsu because he seemed like he wanted to go. And this CD Player was heavy! I know you can dance well, so maybe you can show me again how well you can dance! After all, I’ve gotten taller since the Malicerie School Dance.”
“I’ve gotten taller as well, I hope you know.”
“Oh, I noticed~ But not as much as I would have if I hadn’t gained any height.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Liar! You have plenty of time, I know it! You’re just trying to avoid me!”
“So what if I am? La-Iin, I get annoyed with Dosa-Mina at times. And you tend to be incredibly annoying when you’re trying to get my attention. Not to mention I know you have ulterior motives.”
“But–!”
“No.”
He walked back over to the door, but was only able to put his hand on the doorknob before La-Iin spoke.
“You know, I saw you inside and you looked sad. It reminded me of that time after I showed you that paper. I regret that, you know. You said it made you feel like all you did was a waste of time. I’m a master at finding things to do with my time!”
Choungetsu barked at her. “Stop trying to lie, Choungetsu! Anyway, all you were doing was sitting there and reading some study book! Maybe you don’t like me as much as Dosa-Mina, but I understand you well. And if you’re anything like me, breaks are a necessity. You never know how long it will take for you to accomplish your goal. So taking a break and not thinking about it is helpful.”
San-Kyung sighed. “You think this way because you have longer to live than me, La-Iin. So don’t act like you understand how it works for me.”
“Maybe I do, but San-Kyung, weren’t you doing more before? It seemed like before I gave you that paper, even though you didn’t like to do much, you still did more than you do now. I don’t plan on letting my mistake dominate your life!”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“San-Kyung–”
“Oh, shut up. Look, as I said I don’t have as much time as you do to what I need to do.” He gave another sigh. “But maybe you have a point. I’m not finding out anything the way I’m going. Dosa-Mina’s not finding out anything. I’m not doing anything worth my time.”
“See? I knew it! Accept my activities, San-Kyung!”
“Who said I was going to do that!?”
“You admitted I was right.”
“I said you have a point!”
La-Iin smiled. “San-Kyung, you shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case. Remember we had that talk before? Even though we’re evil, we still have our flaws. There’s evil things that we don’t like and we care about people. Compared to those two things, what’s wrong with wanting to do something fun once in a while? After all, with how well you can dance, you could do a great dance on the graves of your enemies!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes. “How corny. But if it gets you to leave me alone, then fine.”
La-Iin beamed. She set down the CD Player and turned it on, then began to dance. San-Kyung groaned and began to dance as well.

I’m a downtown, downtown la-dy-girl
I’ve got you right where I want you!
I’m a downtown, downtown la-dy-girl
You have fallen into my trap!

—–
“I don’t know what it is,” said Salsh-Era, “but something’s making you look a bit happier today, San-Kyung. What’s up?”
“Nothing is!”
“Did you have a good conversation with Dosa-Mina? I heard you talking to him over the phone.”
“It was just a normal conversation.”
Salsh-Era chuckled. “Who’d have thought my son would be the easily embarrassed type?”
“I thought. Have you seen the way he reacts to certain things? Oh, but he was really cute earlier today when we went out to get drinks. I actually saw him smile for the first time in a while!”
“Oh, be quiet, Mom,” San-Kyung sighed.
“Oh, but you did look really cute, San-Kyung.”
“It’s good to see you happy though. You haven’t seemed yourself for almost two months and I’ve been getting worried. And I know, being happy like this isn’t necessarily acting like yourself. But it’s better than whatever was going on before.”
“Yeah, well, maybe it’s not too bad to have a distraction every now and then.”
“Definitely not!” Del-Kyuus said.
“I’d agree with you there.”
‘I hate feeling like she’s right!’ San-Kyung grit his teeth at the thought. ‘But apparently it’s not just me. Dosa-Mina’s always had good advice. Maybe they’re right…’
“I do agree with La-Iin in this case, San-Kyung. You’ve been depressed lately. There have been a few times when I’ve been depressed that I turn to you to distract myself.”
“Really?”
“Yup! So I think La-Iin has a good point. I told you yesterday anyway. If there’s something you enjoy, don’t just give it up. Take it as your hobby, and use it to your advantage.”