24.540.The Ability to Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 540
“The Ability to Reach Out”

“In this case, you’d have to multiply this problem by three,” Ai-Reia told her. “And that’s the hardest I can help you with in this aspect of math. Anything harder and you’ll have to ask one of the twelfth-graders.”
“You’re so smart, Ai-Reia. I don’t think anyone could help me much as you.”
“That would be a lie. While I’m dubious on how smart Sanyaow is, I know for sure that Sherry’s grades are about my equal, and I have to do easier homework than she does. I think Molshei and Dslellular are fairly high up there as well, and they aren’t even in the twelfth grade yet.”
“Well, you’re the smartest one who is my friend,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “In-Dei is smart too but I don’t think even he could get this!”
“The average grade for this level of math is about tenth to eleventh,” she said. “Not to show off…now, is there something else you want to say? Break time should be just about over soon and I don’t want to chance getting in trouble. Sharing tips might not be against the rules but being out of your seat at class time certainly is!”
“Hm, I know.” Shuera-Kaizima blinked. “Actually, there is one more thing I wish to say to you, Ai-Reia.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, um…or, maybe I shouldn’t say it…”
“You’re welcome to say whatever you wish. Don’t hold back. If you’re worried it will upset me, don’t. I’m actually in a fairly good mood today and I think only La-Iin could bring it down. That or one of Ca-Miela’s massive diaper mishaps…”
“If you say so,” Shuera-Kaizima said, though she seemed uncertain about continuing on. “Well, even though you said you are okay, and everything that happened on the school trip was fine, it was pretty scary when you freaked out last Monday. And I am still worried you will do it again…maybe it sounds…irrational, but I do not want you to be upset like that again.”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Wanting that is not irrational. We’re friends, Kokohara. But trust me, I am a lot better now that I have you and Fyuori. I might have underlying problems but that’s a source of great healing for me.”
“Still…” Shuera-Kaizima’s ears shot up. From the hallway she could hear footsteps. “Er, we’ll have to go over this later, Ai-Reia.”
Ai-Reia shook her head. “Do not worry about me, Kokohara. I promise, I am fine.”

***

“Do you think we should try to talk with Ai-Reia again, In-Dei?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m really worried about her. She seems happy right now, but there are times I will be happy and then end up upset soon after. With Ai-Reia, when she gets upset, it can be much worse than just sad.”
“I’m worried about that too, but maybe she means it. Remember, when we talked to her last month, she was worried about befriending us because we won’t live as long as her, but she seems to have gotten over it by now. Maybe she does feel a bit better.”
“Or she could be hiding it…and isn’t it better to handle things before they get too bad? Do we just wait until she is upset again, or should we handle it while she is not? Would that simply upset her?” Shuera-Kaizima groaned. “I just want her to be okay…”
“I know you do, Shuera-Kaizima. I guess we could try. She might be more open to talking about these kinds of things while she’s not upset. But don’t keep pestering her about it. That might just make her more upset.”
“Do you want to ask her then, In-Dei? I worry I’ll just get desperate.”
Im-Dei shrugged. “I guess I can. But we should focus. I hear the science teacher.”

“Ai-Reia!”
Ai-Reia smiled. Im-Dei was walking up to her desk. “It isn’t often you and I talk between break times. Hello there, Fyuori.”
“Hello.”
“It’s strange to me. When I first came to Malicerie I got the impression that you were shy. But you barely seem it around me and Kokohara.”
“I am actually pretty shy,” he admitted. “But you see Elyshen talking just fine with Sanyaow. It’s like that. Also, I’m a lot more shy around girls than I am around boys…”
“Kokohara and I are girls, though. And I might be young, but Kokohara’s around your age.”
“I know she is, but it’s still the same kind of situation.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I wanted to ask you something. I know you’re happy right now and I like that you are. But I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk with me and Shuera-Kaizima now. We figured that maybe you’d do better getting your problems off your chest while you’re in a good mood than you would while you’re in a bad mood. But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to!”
Ai-Reia stared at him blankly, and Im-Dei felt certain she would refuse. “I don’t really want to talk about these sorts of things. I’ve been trying to put them out of my mind so they don’t come up. But I realize, my outlet for my feelings was destroyed recently. So I suppose you and Kokohara could be worth a shot as a new one. I just don’t want to upset you or her, nor do I want to think about these sorts of things. I’m in a happy period right now. I want to keep it that way for as long as possible.”
“Well, you do what you think is best. I’m sure you’ll come to the right conclusion.” Im-Dei lightly ruffled her hair. “If you want to talk to us you can come see us after class. But do what you think is right.”
As Im-Dei walked away, Ai-Reia was left with his words: “Do what you think is right.”
‘What would be right? Should I really unload all my concerns onto those two? They’ve been nothing but nice to me while I’ve been fighting them and showing them my darkest moments. But I have no outlet. They’re my only relief most of the time. They’re understanding–they might have a solution. But should I really do that to people who have treated me with so much kindness?’
Ai-Reia shuddered. ‘Not all my problems are so dark that I’d want to keep them from those two. Maybe telling them a little bit wouldn’t be too bad…’

***

After classes that day Ai-Reia had made her decision. She approached Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei and, by their expressions, she could tell they already knew what she had come there for. They walked out the classroom alongside the crowd but soon broke off from them and head into a weekend classroom.
Both of them stayed silent and sat down, staring at her with neutral expressions. Ai-Reia felt nervous, but she took a deep breath and began to speak.
“Well…this is sort of silly, but I’ve told you two about my situation with my family before. It feels as though things soured around the time my younger sister was born, that and around the time La-Iin would follow me around the school. Since then I’ve had some on-and-off troubles. Some months I’ll be on fine terms with my family. I’ve even started bonding with my younger sister, it’s just, I have difficulty dealing with babies, I suppose. Other times we barely talk to each other at all. As for La-Iin, I suppose she hasn’t been in my way much recently, but the times I’ve been at odds with her has only made those problems worse…
“In any event, I had hoped things would stabilize this year, but they haven’t really gotten better yet. I had started keeping a diary so that I could write down my problems, but my older sister found it and basically told the whole family about its contents. Now I think that they think I’m a ticking time bomb waiting for another one of those nervous breakdowns, and the fact that I had one at all probably just adds fuel to the fire.”
Ai-Reia began to tear up. ‘Damn it, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this…’ “I know these problems are silly, I just want to go back to being normal again. I half-wish I wasn’t a prodigy so none of this would have ever happened. I’d still be at home in diapers with Ca-Miela. Or if I hadn’t insisted to go to school, I might still be at home as well. I’m glad I met you two, really I am, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But all the other things that have happened since I came to Malicerie, if I could, I would wish them away. …sorry to bother you two with these stupid problems.”
“You aren’t bothering us, Ai-Reia,” Shuera-Kaizima said. Im-Dei nodded. “Not at all.”
“Thank you.”
“I think you should try and show your family that you’ll be alright. If you keep hiding away from them and avoiding them, that might only make them think that you’re getting worse. Talk to them and show them you’re fine.”
“It’s okay to show when you’re not fine as well, though,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “They won’t think you are unstable if you cry because something bad happened. Well, they shouldn’t, at least!”
“Of course they’ll think you’re still upset if you avoid them as much as you can. And sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. So try your best to set things right. …well, that’s all the advice I can offer.”
“I suppose it’s worth a shot. It can’t make things worse, in any event.” Ai-Reia hugged Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei. “Thank you two. I am so very grateful for your friendship.”
“We’re happy to have you as a friend, too!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
Ai-Reia let go of them and turned around. “See you tomorrow,” she said, then head out the Weekend classroom and went to join the sparse crowd heading home.

—–
“Reuf-Bu?”
Reuf-Bu glanced at Ai-Reia. “Yeah, sis? What’s up?”
“I know you’re a fairly grown Vampire and all, but would you mind doing some finger-painting with me?” Ai-Reia felt embarrassed just to suggest the idea. “I heard some of the other children around my grade talking about it, so I was curious–”
“Sure, why not? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do a puzzle, though? That seems more your style.”
“A puzzle does sound nice. Maybe we could do that afterward.”
“You’ve got it, Ai-Reia.” He smiled. “Glad to see you asking to play with your big brother again.”
“I’m glad to ask,” she sighed. “Now let’s hurry before Ca-Miela starts screaming her head off!”
Just as they arrived in the playroom, they heard loud crying. “Too late.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it!” Their mother called. The two gave a sigh of relief and went back to setting up their craft.

15.531.Mental Breakdown

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 531
“Mental Breakdown”

Ai-Reia felt as though she was once again on the path to despair.
She desperately wanted to write down her thoughts in her notebook, but she felt that Zih-Amo would get her hands on it again and read it and tell the whole family of its contents. She felt she could fix Ca-Miela, but for the effects to show it would take a while–and she had no idea if her influence on her baby sister would be vastly outweighed by the influence of her family.
Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei had also reached out to her as friends, but a constant reminder of their limited lifespan was always on her mind whenever she talked to them. It made ,any conversations she had with them unenjoyable, and in the end only served to depress her further when she arrived home from school.
There was no out. No matter how hard she tried, it would always find her. This was how it was even before she had encountered La-Iin. Nothing would ever go her way the way she wanted it to. Her family would never think of her in the same way they thought of her siblings. It was an endless loop that would never cease.
The idea of continuing on the way she was for hundreds of years was maddening. Living was becoming a chore, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was she wanted anymore.
If Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei somehow extended their lifespans, would that fix the problem?
If La-Iin died, would that fix the problem?
Would she recover once Ca-Miela grew up and proved her wrong?
Was it something with her family? Was she waiting for them to reach out to her?
Or was the only option her own death? Perhaps all along it had nothing to do with the fault of the world and it was just her, herself. Whatever monsters lie inside of her manifested themselves in the form of a violent dream, and if that and daydreams of La-Iin’s murder were capable of nagging at her, perhaps the truth was all along that there was no fix for her. It wasn’t as if
Maybe she really was insane, just as she was certain her family thought she was.
Whatever the case, Ai-Reia desperately wanted the night to be over. In the darkness she was left alone with her thoughts which had begun to barrage her with ideas that all along there was no cure to her sadness.

***

“Ai-Reia, aren’t you going to have breakfast?” Her mother asked.
“Hey, Ai-Reia, you don’t look so good. Get enough sleep last night?” Reuf-Bu asked.
“Ai-Reia, you okay? Your clothes are on backwards.” Zih-Amo asked.
Ai-Reia responded to none of them and head outside and on the path to Malicerie. The door opened behind her.
“Ai-Reia! You’re not ready for school yet! Come back inside!”
Her mother’s voice barely registered, but the angered tone hurt Ai-Reia. She continued on in a run, hoping to outrun the voice and make it to school.
Though her mother started to fly after her, she soon noticed that Ai-Reia was in a desperate run, going much faster than she had ever seen her daughter go. She was certain she could catch up with her, but she was momentarily stunned.
What could have happened to Ai-Reia to make her break out in that sort of run?
Ai-Reia continued on the path, her eyes bleary. She couldn’t tell with what, but either way, she continued on, occasionally tripping on the path there. She felt she could hear the sound of wings flapping behind her, but couldn’t tell if there was actually someone flying behind her or if she was just imagining it.
Something told her it was both. Ai-Reia continued on running.
The path to school was filled with students from all four classes as Ai-Reia dashed into the crowd.
“Is that girl okay?” A Class B student asked.
“She seems upset. Maybe we should do something.” Said one from Class C.
“Probably nervous that some boy’s gonna do something to her!” Said a student from Class A.
“Vampiris!” Shuera-Kaizima called. “Vampiris, are you okay?”
“Is everything alright?” Im-Dei asked.
When Ai-Reia closed in on them, the two noticed that her clothes were put on improperly; her shirt was on backwards and so her wings were underneath the fabric, and her skirt was not properly fastened and was slipping down. Her hair didn’t seem to be brushed and her normal wing hair clip was gone. Most notably to them, her face was streaked with tears and she seemed desperate to reach the school as if being pursued. While Shuera-Kaizima chased after her, Im-Dei checked the crowd to see if anyone was pursuing her, and noticed a Vampire woman flying above the crowd.
The woman spotted him and landed next to him.
“Excuse me,” she panted, “have you…did you see a Vampire girl running by?”
“I did.”
“Where did she go?”
“Into the school?”
“Thank you.”
Now on ground, she ran past the crowd. Im-Dei was confused, and hoped that the woman was Ai-Reia’s mother.
Ai-Reia scrambled into the classroom and into a random seat.
“What are you doing?” La-Iin asked as she walked by.
“Are you okay, Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia shrieked. She ducked under the seat.
“…okay…”
“I don’t think Vampiris is okay,” Fer-Shi said. “Did you notice she had her shirt on backwards? The wing-slots were in the front!”
La-Iin peeked under the desk. Ai-Reia was holding her head and shaking slightly.
‘This has nothing to do with her. It’s all because I’m a monster. There’s no escape. I wish I hadn’t been born with this stupid brain!’
“She seems messed up.”
“We should tell one of the faculty members!”
“Who? I don’t think the school faculty has anyone who deals with crazy people.”
“Well, I think anyone on the faculty would call her family to deal with this!” Fer-Shi dashed out the classroom, nearly crashing into other students who were heading in.
Ai-Reia’s strange behavior soon caught the attention of most of the Class D students, who peeked at her under the desk or watched from a distance. Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei remained at a distance, both looking horrified at the sight of their friend shaking under the desk.
“…go away…”
“No. This is too amusing.”
Ai-Reia’s eyes widened. She crawled out from under the desk and grabbed onto La-Iin’s shirt. She said nothing further, and La-Iin wondered if she should break from her grip before she reacted any further. The other students watched on in fear and curiosity, wondering what she might do to La-Iin next.
“You really are crazy,” La-Iin sighed. ‘It’s a shame. I could have used this to my advantage.’
Ai-Reia’s grip on her shirt became stronger, and La-Iin flinched, ready to break away, when a Vampire woman walked into the classroom, heading for Ai-Reia. She seemed oblivious to what she was doing and scooped her up, hugging her close.
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?” She asked. Ai-Reia didn’t respond. The woman blinked and looked at La-Iin. “Are you okay?”
La-Iin stared curiously at the Vampire woman, who seemed to lose interest in La-Iin’s response in favor of comforting Ai-Reia, who had started to sob.
While the students were distracted, Xhuzsha walked into the classroom and over to Ai-Reia’s mother. The two conversed for a short while before leaving the classroom. Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin’s side.
“Did you get Xhuzsha?”
“Mm-hm. He sounded pretty worried when I told him about how she was acting. I hope she’s okay…”
La-Iin felt conflicted about Ai-Reia’s behavior. She chose not to dwell on it and head for her seat.

***

“I hesitate to say whether or not she had a mental breakdown, but it could be possible. Has Ai-Reia been under any particular stress lately, Mrs. Vampiris?”
“I don’t know…” She sighed. “She hasn’t been talking to us much lately…”
“Hm.” Xhuzsha glanced at Ai-Reia, who laid silent on the office’s bed. “We’ll let you take her home for today. I don’t think she’s in any condition to stay at school. I can’t claim to know her stressors and I am not a mental health professional, Mrs. Vampiris, but I did dabble in the subject before focusing on physical health. And even had I not I would recommend finding out if there is something wrong with her. With young children, especially Vampires, it can be hard to tell if it’s an actual mental illness or some other cause, but you should get her checked out regardless.”
Ai-Reia’s mother gave an absent nod. “We will, Mr. Xhuzsha.”
‘Just as I thought. It’s all a problem with me. They think I’m crazy.’
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?”
“Take her home, Mrs. Vampiris. She’ll be better off home than at school forcing herself to manage this.”
Her mother picked her up, waved to Xhuzsha, and left the room.
Ai-Reia couldn’t help but feel deeply embarrassed, and more depressed than she had been feeling just moments before.
‘Everyone witnessed that, didn’t they? Now there is no secret. Everyone knows I’m a monster. There’s no out. But no matter how much I prepared myself, I still wasn’t ready…’

—–
“Oh, the Principal wanted me to relay a message to the students of Class D–Miss Vampiris won’t be joining us for classes for a little while she recovers. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she will be staying home for a short while.”
“If Ai-Reia needs to recover from being crazy, then why don’t I get to?” La-Iin grumbled.
“You’re not crazy. And I don’t think Ai-Reia is either, but there’s definitely something wrong with her.”
“Huh. Say whatever you want, Fer-Shi. This is all overblown.”
“You should be more considerate, La-Iin. You wanted Ai-Reia to be your friend.”
“She proved to me that she doesn’t want that in a violent way. I don’t owe her my concern.”
La-Iin still felt conflicted as she left the classroom. Although she genuinely felt no sympathy for Ai-Reia, she did find herself slightly concerned about what had happened.

9.525.Shuu-Kena’s Reason

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 525
“Shuu-Kena’s Reason”

“I dare you to hang on the monkey bars upside-down with your panties showing!”
“I’m not going to do that!”
“So you’re not up to the challenge?”
“That’s just embarrassing, La-Iin. But something tells me you don’t care about that.”
“I don’t. But if you’re really so prissy as to reject my dare, then I have another one for you. How about instead you ask Veiner to fly you around the recess area? I’m sure he has the strength to hold you up.”
Cae-Bougen turned around and pointed at himself.
“Isn’t that kinda rude? He looks like he’s having a lot of fun with Shan-Zetsu.”
“Shan-Zetsu’s your friend though, isn’t he? Would you rather do this or the panty dare!?”
“This one! Geez, La-Iin, you can be so pushy sometimes! When I’m done with your dare, I’m gonna dare you the biggest dare of your life!”
La-Iin relaxed on the bench and smirked as Fer-Shi approached Cae-Bougen. The two seemed uncertain at first, but he soon wrapped his arms around her waist and began to fly off with her with relative ease. Seeing that sight made her feel just the slightest bit jealous that she didn’t share his strength.
‘But with my new power, I might,’ she reminded herself. ‘After all, they call the strength of a Minomix a power!’
“Wow, Cae-Bougen’s really strong!” Shuu-Kena said. La-Iin groaned. The young girl was sitting nearby her, though on the ground instead of on the bench.
“Do you always have to stalk me?”
“I’m not stalking you, Cahongyun.”
“That’s what you say, but I’m a stalking expert. I know when someone’s stalking me as well as I know how to stalk.”
“That’s a little weird.”
“Says you, goody-goody.”
“Hmm. Do I really annoy you that much, Cahongyun?”
“Yes, you do! I don’t want to be friends with you, Sara. I’ve said so already. Besides, I’m sure Veiner is going to let Fer-Shi down soon enough. I have someone to play with.”
She glanced back up at Fer-Shi and Cae-Bougen, who by now were both smiling as they flew above the recess area. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“It looks like they’re having lots of fun.”
“You know, I think Fer-Shi would like you. Why don’t you try befriending her, hm? Anything to get you to leave me alone. Unless you’re using me to get to Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not. I like Sanhuun too, but I get kind of shy around her. She’s so nice she probably has lots of friends.”
“You must not be looking hard enough.”
“But you really interest me. You made friends with two teenagers even though you’re younger than me. I could never do that. I have a hard time even making friends with people my own age.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “I made friends with one teenager.”
“Actually, Cahongyun, there’s one other thing that interests me about you aside from all that. You see, my family is evil, just like you. I’m kind of weird compared to them, because I’ve been told I’m more neutral. But my Dad has been arrested lots of times before. In fact, just at the end of last month he got out of jail.”
La-Iin gave a curious glance in her direction. “Is your family evil too, La-Iin? You’ve done a better job of not disappointing them then I have if so…”
“…” La-Iin was stunned. Of all she had been expecting Shuu-Kena to say, the admission that her family was evil came as a surprise.
“Your parents get arrested?”
“Them and my big brother. My sisters are still too little to get arrested, but they’re as evil as everyone else. My family wants to make Bledger scarier. They’re doing their best to make sure that people see Bledger as a place to fear. They want it to be that way so that nobody will come here, nobody will do anything about it, and they can make this the crime hub of Vaelyn. That’s what they said to me.” Shuu-Kena covered up her mouth. “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that! Please don’t tell them, Cahongyun. I’ll be in a lot of trouble if they find out!”
“I can’t tell them,” La-Iin reminded her. Shuu-Kena breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh yes, right.”
Cae-Bougen landed, and Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin. “Now I’ve got a big dare for you! I want you to fly around the recess area until your wings are exhausted! That’ll show you!”
“What a mistake, Fer-Shi! Flying is one of my passions! You’ve only given me something to enjoy!” She spread her wings. “You have fun on the recess area, Fer-Shi. I won’t be coming back to play with you.”
“Don’t fly away from Malicerie! It can’t be too long before the last class!”
La-Iin flew above the recess area, then glanced below her. Shuu-Kena watched her with a smile. She flew closer to the ground and above Shuu-Kena.
“Tell me more about this evil family of yours, Sara. My curiosity has been piqued.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened. “Well, my parents aren’t murderers, but they do as many bad things as possible. They believe that you should keep torturing people until the last moment. They made a rule that they would only kill old people because young people have so much potential for torment. My brother and sisters believe that too.”
“Hmm.”
“My parents commit a lot of crime, and my big brother does too. My sisters have this notebook where they keep a record of all of their ideas. They kind of think I’m a disappointment. They even gave me my name because they thought I was going to be a great force in their fight to make Bledger a crime hub. Maybe you don’t know this, but the name Shuu-Kena comes from two meanings. One meaning is water lily, but the other one is more like blood stream…but nobody uses that meaning except my parents.”
“Hm.”
“You know, you’re the first person I really got to talk to about this. Everyone else would try and arrest my parents, but I’m so scared of going to live with a new family, and I still love my family even though they’re evil. I don’t know if they love me, though. I would rather become a painter than do all those crimes, and I don’t really care if they do crimes so long as anyone isn’t too badly hurt, but they just seem kind of disappointed with me. If I was your daughter, do you think you’d be disappointed with me?”
“I am the wrong person to ask. Sara, living with an evil family perhaps you realize the whole reason I’m so curious is because I’m evil myself.”
“I figured. But it’s still all nice to talk about. I really do want to be your friend. You’re friends with Sanhuun, so I thought even if you’re evil, you might be okay with being friends with a failure like me.”
“Perhaps we can make a deal then.”
“Huh?”
“I’ll play with you in exchange for hearing about the doings of your family. I’m always interested in getting a different perspective. I want to hear about these things to see what works and what doesn’t. So maybe you can help me.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Okay then.”
“Tell me more!”
“Um, well, I think my little sisters killed a dog once, actually…”
La-Iin blinked. “I’m kind of scared that one day when I get older, they’ll find where my family lives and arrest all of us including me. Dad makes jail sound really scary. He says they don’t monitor the main jail as closely as they used to, so now the criminals are free to be really dangerous, but they still can’t escape because they use power suppressants on non-Normal criminals. I know a lot about jail. My Dad tells me and my sisters jail stories like bedtime stories. Does your family hear bedtime stories?”
‘She’s chatty about this. I wonder…’ “No.”
“Too bad. I was hoping you could tell me some.”
La-Iin opened her mouth to speak, only to notice a sharp pain in her wings. She landed and gasped, then walked back over to the bench.
“I saw you talking with Sara,” Fer-Shi said. “Are you two becoming friends? She seems like a weird choice. I thought you didn’t like her.”
“I don’t really. But she has some endearing qualities. And she has something I want, I figured out. You might like her too, but I think you’d like her for a different reason.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. So, you got tired before recess ended, huh?”
“I flapped my wings harder than I expected to, is all.”
“Mm-hm. Well, I think the last class is in a few minutes. Why don’t we head in early?”
“Because we’ll have to wait longer.”
From the recess area the students could hear the sound of many footsteps as classrooms were exchanged. “I think we won’t have to wait too long.”
La-Iin sighed. “Fine.”
As she and Fer-Shi head inside, Shuu-Kena smiled at her. La-Iin flashed a smirk back.

—–
“Sister, what are you painting?”
“Is it a painting of an enemy?”
“It’s a painting of my new friend at Malicerie,” Shuu-Kena said. Her sisters sighed.
“You would have thought a school called Malicerie would be more evil than that.”
“How disappointing.”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head, but when she looked at her crude painting of La-Iin, she felt a bit better. She continued to work on the painting as her family discussed at the dinner table what their next course of action should be.

8.524.Inspiration of Confidence

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 524
“Inspiration of Confidence”

La-Iin head out for school that day feeling as though there was something she had to do. She strode onto the path with confidence in her gait.
“Hi there, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi called. “Wow, you look confident today! Something good happen over the weekend?”
“Good has been happening for longer than that, Fer-Shi. But it’s not the goody-goody kind of good. It’s more of…a wonderfulness.”
“I figured that,” she chuckled.
“It’s not only that. I have something I know I need to do today. I’ve been stewing over it for a short while now, but I finally know how to do it.”
“Really? What is it?”
“You wouldn’t care, Fer-Shi, so I’m not going to tell you.”
“Oh, come on! You’ve told me plenty of things I don’t care about before, so why is this one different?”
La-Iin opened her mouth to respond when out the corner of her eye she caught sight of both San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina walking to school, their heads bowed slightly and their expressions somber as they had recently been. That sight only increased her determination further.
“It just is,” she said. Fer-Shi narrowed her eyes, but she didn’t push any further, and the two soon got into a conversation about a recent shopping trip Fer-Shi had been on, which La-Iin found immensely dull.

***

“Gee, La-Iin, you seemed pretty lost in thought all throughout class,” Fer-Shi said as the last class came to an end. “Taking studying seriously, or are you just thinking about that thing I’m not supposed to know about?”
La-Iin had still been lost in thought when Fer-Shi spoke, and she flinched slightly when she realized she was talking to her. “What do you think?”
“It’s that thing I’m not supposed to know about,” Fer-Shi sighed. “I wish you would tell me what it is, La-Iin. I might not be interested, but I’m your best friend! I tell you lots of things.”
“Best friends may trust each other quite a bit, but would best friends tell each other about their secret of pooping their pants if that happened? Would you tell me all about how you pooped in your panties?”
Fer-Shi gaped. “No!”
“So best friends don’t have to tell each other everything.”
Fer-Shi lowered her head. “I suppose not…”
“But since I can be a sap sometimes, I’ll make you a deal. If it succeeds, I’ll tell you all about my success. I prefer to dwell on success rather than failure anyway!”
La-Iin spread her wings. “You’re not supposed to fly in class,” Fei-Zhust said.
“Quiet, peon! I wasn’t going to.” Folding her wings to her back, La-Iin jumped off her desk, bit into her arm, then head over to the desks of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina, who were just starting to stand up and head out the door. Before they could, La-Iin grabbed their hands and dragged them out the school as her transformation completed.
“What the hell!?”
“What’s all this about, La-Iin?”
“You’ll see.” She continued to drag the two boys across the school hallway, garnering the looks of mostly students from other classes–though she noticed that Deki-Tyunri and Airy-Aekok were both staring wide-eyed in her direction. She dragged them around until they were out of view of the crowd and the sound of students chattering was nothing more than a background din.
“Nobody told you you could do that!” San-Kyung spat.
“I don’t listen to what people tell me to or not to do, and neither should you,” she said, pointing at San-Kyung. “I have a very specific reason for dragging you boys out here today. Namely, the two of you lately have been utterly pathetic!
“What!?”
“What did you say!?”
La-Iin smirked. “That’s more like it, San-Kyung! You’re on the right track. Look, San-Kyung, you’re determined to get your true form back and rule the world with me at any cost. You have much more experience under your belt than me because of Hledshess and also, you’re sixteen and I’m just seven. So instead of wasting it moping around, instead of just sitting here wishing you could eat me so you could get your true form back–”
“You seriously have a lot of that messed up,” San-Kyung said, sounding disgusted.
“But you understand what I want to say, right? You should have a fire, a determination to do evil! If you’re evil but you mope around, you’re just a failure at evil as far as I’m concerned! When it comes to being evil, unlike with goody-goodies there’s more to it than just thinking certain people should die and wishing for the apocalypse. It’s actively taking steps towards making the world worse! You used to be doing that, yet you aren’t anymore! As the person who messed you up, I seek to fix you!”
Her gaze fell on Dosa-Mina. “And as for you. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, and I really don’t care.”
“Then why bother bringing me out here in the first place?”
“Look, whether I like it or not you’re San-Kyung’s best friend. And if you’re sad while he’s sad then what do you think is going to happen to him? You’re really annoying when you’re being a smart-ass, rival-boy, but I’ll take that over whatever this is any day. You’re just dragging San-Kyung further down with you into some….pit of sadness or something!”
“Um…”
“In short terms, the both of you need to shape up because you’re pissing me off!”
Silence reigned.
“…what.”
“That is one of the silliest things I’ve heard all day. What, it’s not ‘I love you, San-Kyung, so cheer up’ and ‘Cheer up for San-Kyung’? It’s ‘you’re pissing me off’?”
“It’s what you said too, rival-boy, but it’s also that you’re pissing me off.”
“…”
“You are possibly even more annoying than usual when you’re sad like this, and everyone else in class can see it. As for San-Kyung, it’s just not right. San-Kyung should be striking his hand and tangling vines, not sitting there looking depressed! San-Kyung, let me tell you this–if I can wield the power to possess any other species’ powers, then you can have your true form at all times!”
La-Iin was about to start her next sentence when vines sprout up from below her and quickly tied her up. She stared wide-eyed at San-Kyung.
“Is that what you meant by more confidence? Around you, La-Iin, it’s difficult to be depressed.”
La-Iin smiled. “That’s a good thing, then. Maybe we should spend more time together. I mean, after all, we are friends, and if you hang out with that depressio all the time you’ll only get even more depressed.”
“Depressio?” Dosa-Mina questioned.
“I might spend more time with you if you didn’t act the way you did.”
“At least I’m honest!” She huffed. “But if I could make you even a bit more happy or confident, that’s a good thing. The San-Kyung I truly love is always striving, never stopping! Take this from someone who had her own depressed moment–it will pass and soon once again you and I will be on the path to ruling the world!”
“Yeah right,” San-Kyung scoffed. “Come on, Dosa-Mina. She isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
“Don’t you think you should let her down?”
San-Kyung didn’t respond. La-Iin began to struggle against the vines, hoping they would loosen. She was surprised to see that in the middle of these struggles, San-Kyung had returned and was standing in front of her.
“One question. Were you in my house the other day?”
La-Iin’s smirk widened. “What makes you think I was?”
“Were you!?”
“That’s my secret. If rival-boy can have his, I can too.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. The vines around her tightened, and La-Iin began to feel lightheaded, but they just as suddenly unraveled and she fell to the ground.
“There’s no point to harming you. Useless or not, you’re still a….friend.” San-Kyung turned away from her. “Though, I think I might have just found a new use for you…”
“As a lover!?”
“In your dreams!” He yelled, before taking off. La-Iin smiled.
“I think I can chalk this mission up to a success!”

—–
“So La-Iin, do I get to know about your secret yet?”
“The mission was a success, so I guess so. I think I finally made it through to my future husband…he won’t be looking so sullen in class now, that’s for sure!”
Fer-Shi looked confused for a moment before her eyes widened and she cringed. “Suddenly I don’t really want to know what happened…”
La-Iin huffed. “I knew it.”

“Hey, sorry to have eavesdropped, but I overheard you say something about a new use for La-Iin. So that leaves me with two questions–one, what is it, and two, you didn’t already have a use? You were keeping her around why?”
“Second one first, I was too down to actually tell her to back off. That and I figured she would have a new use sooner or later. And now I think she does.”
“What?”
“La-Iin is an inspiration.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head. “I don’t mean it in some corny way like her little motivational speech. I mean how stupid she is. Her own stupid brand of evil gives me inspiration for how I could do similar but worse. Although I doubt she’s going to be much more use than that.”
“You know, you’d probably get the same effect not being friends with her too.”
“Well for now, it’s more convenient to leave things as they are.”
“If you say so.”

7.523.Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 7

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 523
“Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 7”

“Yong-Hin, take a look at this. I managed to recover some details about this ‘Startimatum’. I even nabbed a picture. Take a look at this face. I have no doubt in my mind that this is Mr. Hyusen. Our science teacher is a part-time pornographer.”
Yong-Hin giggled. “How devastating it would be if such information was leaked to the world!”
Yul-Hiis relaxed in his seat. “‘Twould be, but I think it will be all the more satisfying to watch him out himself. It’s not like we’re kids, exactly. I wouldn’t call adolescents children. We’ll understand what he’s done.”
“We’re only barely adolescents, though.”
“We’re adolescents nonetheless,” Yul-Hiis said. “Whatever the occasion, I look forward to seeing the look on his face when they all learn that Startimatum and Mr. Hyusen are the same person. Heh!”
Yong-Hin giggled. “My oh my do people love to hide the parts of themselves they’re ashamed of.”
“That can be said without a doubt!”

***

Yong-Hin had found herself with an insatiable curiosity for all things in the world ever since she was young. Her parents interchangeably described her as a treasure hunter, investigator and just a nosy young girl. In her early life, many of the facts she sought after were subjects that would help her in school or taught her tidbits she personally found quite interesting.
However, as she grew older and after having met the equally-curious Yul-Hiis, Yong-Hin’s curiosity extended past that and she focused most of her energy on finding out far darker things about the world–and the tidbit she and Yul-Hiis had found on their science teacher being a pornographer made her want to laugh each time she remembered it during class.
“Ah, I hope the discovery of information becomes even easier in the future,” Yong-Hin said. “Already you almost had to pay for a bimbo in order to find out that tidbit about ‘Startimatum’.”
“What did you say?” Mr. Hyusen asked. Yong-Hin and Yul-Hiis giggled. “Absolutely nothing, Mr. Hyusen!”
Mr. Hyusen gaved them a concerned expression. He pushed his glasses up and stared down at a book.
“Oh, he’s so blatant it can’t be long now.”
“The risk was far higher than paying for a bimbo, fair Yong-Hin,” Yul-Hiis sighed. “Had I gone any farther it would have been more of a man-bo I was paying for. That district is truly curious. I might have to visit it again someday.”
“The idea of you getting with a man-bo isn’t all that unappealing,” Yong-Hin giggled. Yul-Hiis gave her a wry look. “Your idea of entertainment confuses me, Yong-Hin. Now, what say we go looking for another piece of information today?” Yul-Hiis blinked. “Damn it!”
“What’s wrong?”
“I’d love to go searching the murky depths of downtown with you today, but I just remembered I and my parents have an obligation to some stupid butcher Narwhaltae family. We promised them we would go fishing and talk on something or another. My parents truly want me to befriend their young son, but he is simply so boring!”
“Oh, what a shame,” Yong-Hin sighed. “Well, I have plenty of time, so I’ll make sure to go and look for plenty of juicy tidbits to share with you when you come back from your boring obligations.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“You always find the best ones,” Yul-Hiis sighed.
“Well then, tomorrow we’ll meet again?”
Yul-Hiis squeezed her hand. “Tomorrow for certain, Yong-Hin. Find something delicious, alright?”
“I’ll never find anything half as delicious as your Startimatum,” Yong-Hin giggled. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed that Hyusen was staring in their direction, again looking perturbed as if he had overheard what she had said.

Downtown was fairly sparse that day, but to Yong-Hin it felt as though people were everywhere. She spotted a man rustling through garbage. A woman handing out pastries, dark circles under her eyes. A Normal walking by wearing a bulky shirt through which she could see the bulge of wings. Everywhere she looked seemed to be a treasure-trove of people with new stories for her to learn, but she had no idea where to start, nor knew which people she could approach and successfully learn the stories of.
‘Yul-Hiis has a better way of going about this. He actually goes to the place these sorts of people inhabit. Meanwhile I have no idea how I might learn about these people in any way, nor any guarantee that they are actually anyone interesting.’
She strained to listen for any sort of conversation that might be going on nearby her. Only a minute passed before she heard a voice off to her left.
“…and they act like, ‘Oh, because you’re a celebrity, you must be infallible!’ but the truth is, most celebrities have a dark secret to hide. It pretty much goes hand-in-hand with being a celebrity, having some dark disgusting part of you that you want to lock away.”
“Do you have one, then?”
“No way! I’m open about myself because this kind of behavior pisses me off! But you wanna know what? Don’t go blabbing it to the public just yet, but I found out that Veu-Nil keeps a fetish diary. And they say that Bes-Kaal beats on her family behind the scenes for dragging down her fame!”
“Whoa!”
“No duh. You might hear a lot of things as fans, but we hear even more within the industry–dark secrets they want to be kept secret…”
Yong-Hin smirked. The story interested her, not just because of the tidbits being exchanged but the mere fact of the celebrities gossiping about each other to fans. She jot down the notes, then sighed.
‘But this isn’t enough. Maybe Yul-Hiis would think it’s a tasty tidbit, but he always lets me off easy because he likes me. This isn’t enough. After Startimatum, I need to outdo him. And in order to outdo him, I’ll have to head off to a darker side of the world and do some serious investigation.’
She stood behind to listen to the rest of the conversation, then clapped her hands and flew off in search of a story.
‘One of these places has got to be less bright than the others.’ She checked around for any sign of someone familiar or someone interesting for her to watch. Flying over an alleyway, she caught scent of a strange smell that made her retch, and at the same time enticed her. Curious, she landed and folded her wings, taking a check around.
The alleyway was filled with dumpsters and strange powders lying on the ground, but the scent got stronger the more she walked on. Yong-Hin took her chances and walked out of the alleyway, only to be greeted by the sight of many more. She wanted to remark aloud, but reminded herself she had no idea what was awaiting her in this strange place.
She checked down each of the alleyways, and each one held a surprise–down one was a group of people who appeared to be doing drugs, while down another a Vampire man chewed from an Animated Pumpkin’s arm. Down one even further along, she spotted two people in what appeared to be just prior to intercourse–and it took a lot of resistance for her to look away.
Each alleyway held a curious secret and seemed to have its own tale, and the people down one seemed to be oblivious to what went down the other, even when a group of children chatting casually was right across from a Goathoof man being beaten by a furious Minomix yelling curses. Yong-Hin made sure to jot down a note on each alleyway, though even she felt a little off-put by the strange place and made sure not to stay close to one for two long.
The alleyway strip seemed to come to its end, a small stone path leading into a slightly forested area. Yong-Hin followed the path and found herself in a small neighborhood, the houses fairly symmetrical yet all showing some significant sign of damage that differentiated each one from the other.
Yelling sounded from one of the houses, and Yong-Hin peeked in through a murky window. A Minomix man was yelling at his wife and children, looking just as furious as the one she had spotted earlier. In another house she could hear faint sounds of nervous mumbling, but in yet another despite the poor condition of their house a small family was eating dinner and laughing.
The sight of it all was fascinating to Yong-Hin, who made sure to write down every bit of what she saw. ‘Anyone who says this world doesn’t have more to offer is lying. This neighborhood is proof of it!’

***

When Yong-Hin arrived home, she was surprised to see Yul-Hiis sitting on her bed.
“Hello there, Yongie,” he said. “You look even fairer now than at school.”
“What are you doing here, Yul-Hiis? I thought you had obligations. And who said you could come into my room?”
“That is something you’ll have to take up with your mother,” he sighed. “But the obligations ended faster than expected because my father decided to pick a bit of a….fight would sound better, admittedly, but it was more of a disagreement. So I figured I’d come here and wait for you.” He laid down on his stomach. “So, do you have juicy tidbits for me to hear? I’m curious about what’s in that notebook of yours.”
Yong-Hin hopped onto her bed. “I did find quite a bit. I felt adventurous today. I think I worried my parents a bit with how late I came home. But, not much. Now, take a look.” She opened the notebook.
“Celebrities are apparently gossiping about how one or the other has a dark secret they prefer to keep from the world. Apparently Banta Veu-Nil keeps a fetish diary. And when I went a little further into a dark area near downtown, I found a whole little alleyway strip that held all sorts of nefarious doings. Go past that alleyway strip, and you find a small neighborhood. In this neighborhood you’ll find the occasional nuclear family, but most of the families here are abusive drug-addicts. My curiosity made me wonder if that was a connection to the fact that most there were Dualbreeds, but, being one myself and my best friend being one I should be the last to judge. Either way, it’s a true showing of the dark underbelly of the world, don’t you think?”
“The dark underbelly of the world has existed for a long time, Yong-Hin, long as good and neutral have been around. We on the more neutral side of the spectrum are lucky. We benefit from the good and avoid arrest in this good-dominated society, and yet we are open to the evil and are able to see it without becoming disgusted or sick. Merely, curious. But what prompted you to head off to such a dangerous part of town anyway? Weren’t you scared?”
“Not at all. A Demon’s powers, even a half-Demon’s, are made for combat, for the most part. And I’m a succubus-type Demon–I could always use my virginity to my advantage.”
“I suppose you could,” chuckled Yul-Hiis.
“Seeing all this made me wonder. Do you think someday when I’m older, I should open a business dedicated to collecting information?”
“They have something like that already. It’s called the government.”
“I don’t mean like that. I mean for my personal use, and there would be nothing the government could do about it.”
“Sounds like a fairly far-fetched dream, my dear Yong-Hin. But if anyone could do it, it would be you. Just make sure you have your head screwed on straight if you do pursue it.”
“You should know better by now that it just doesn’t do to underestimate me, Yul-Hiis,” Yong-Hin said with a wink.

—–
Eteibreit relaxed in her chair at her office, dwelling back on her earliest discoveries. Her business had flourished since its opening and now she had access to several bits of information. She couldn’t suppress her smirk at the memory of the small investigations she had used to do.
‘Now I have far more power,’ she thought. ‘The old me would have been overwhelmed if she knew her musing had become a reality!’

4.520.Contemplation and Consideration

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 520
“Contemplation and Consideration”

“I gave you those nightmares.”
“I wanted to prevent what happens in your nightmares from happening again.”

Those two sentences had been repeating on a constant loop within Dosa-Mina’s mind ever since Sunday, and still he felt he couldn’t make sense of the situation at all. Each time he tried to think of some sort of reasonable conclusion, he fell short.
On one hand, it was incredibly likely that Kkumneok was a creation of his mind. On another, what he had said about visiting San-Kyung’s dream, and that San-Kyung had dreamed someone similar to him at all, rose many questions.
On one hand, it seemed improbable that someone from wherever Kkumneok was, be it another time or the future, could exist at all–even with the absurdities of a Witch’s powers existing in the world, it simply made no sense. On the other hand, the events were so clear in his dream that he almost felt like he himself were living through them. Some nights he could barely tell he was in the midst of a nightmare.
No matter what kind of sense he tried to make of it, it didn’t seem to make any, and slowly he was feeling as though he was being driven mad. He felt terrible for focusing so much time on the subject–he could tell his parents were more than a little curious about the way he had been acting recently–especially when San-Kyung had an immediate issue that he knew he should attend to. His time was better spent, and more enjoyably spent, searching for another way or at least a certainty that transforming permanently was absolutely and undeniably impossible.
Though with the state San-Kyung’s mind was in, he strongly hoped against the latter.
The state of his friend’s mind and Kkumneok’s words had stirred within him another concern. If perhaps all of what he said was true, and there was some reasonable explanation–perhaps if he came from the future, there Witches and Warlocks had discovered time travel, he certainly wouldn’t put it past them–wasn’t it also possible that preventing the future was impossible? All that made him consider otherwise was the nightmares he had of La-Iin’s death.
Who exactly was Kkumneok that he discovered such a way to talk to people in dreams, that he knew where to find him? Even if he met with Kkumneok in a dream again, he doubted that question of his would ever be answered.
Whatever the answer to all of these questions was, Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure he was ready for them or would particularly care to hear them. Already skeptic as he was, he had near wanted to strangle Kkumneok when he had said that he was the one who gave him his nightmares.
What was the truth in all of this? And how exactly could he find out what it was?

***

“Rival-boy, you look constipated,” La-Iin said.
“Are you alright, Dosa-Mina?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Like, this is weird. I don’t think he’s smiled for like, days now,” Airy-Aekok said.
“He’s barely smiled all this week, and he hasn’t latched on to San-Kyung once. Although that’s happened before in the past.” Lirako told her.
“I hope he’s alright.” Deki-Tyunri said.
Hearing all those students commenting on him made him want to leave the classroom right then, but he pushed down the feeling. It would only make them comment further, he knew. He glanced at San-Kyung. San-Kyung’s head was bowed and his eyes looked empty. If Dosa-Mina hadn’t been used to him making similar expressions recently, he would have been concerned.
‘The two of us sure do have a lot in common,’ he thought. ‘We both have issues with our true forms, and we’re both like this now…’
He was even more concerned about San-Kyung. This kind of behavior only reminded him of the way he acted in his nightmares–and that, in turn, reminded him of what Kkumneok had told him. It brought another thought to mind–perhaps, by meddling in the affairs of a place he didn’t belong in, Kkumneok would only cause the tragedy that happened wherever he came from to happen earlier than it was supposed to, if the tragedy had really happened at all.
The mere thought of it was enough to prompt him to unconsciously squeeze San-Kyung’s hand, and though San-Kyung shot a glance in his direction, he barely noticed it. Even if it was some sort of imagination, he still had to try his best to help San-Kyung. That much he was certain of.
“Geez, I guess some things don’t change no matter how sad they are,” Lirako sighed.
“What do you mean by that?” Asked Deki-Tyunri. Lirako pointed at the two’s hands. Deki-Tyunri lowered his head.
“Come on, Deks, you know not to get upset by that. Dosa-Mina does it all the time even if San-Kyung protests. And I think he’s too sad to protest him doing that right now.”
“Do you think I should try approaching him? I was considering it, but I…”
Lirako shook her head. “I’d love to say yes, Deki-Tyunri, but my guess is he’ll either get mad at you or it won’t matter that you went up to him because he’ll pretend you don’t exist.”
Deki-Tyunri sighed. “And I’d love to argue against that, but you’re probably right…”

***

When Dosa-Mina went to bed that night, it seemed as if a nightmare had started immediately–or rather, several of them. All around him there were square screens reflecting various events–San-Kyung’s depression, several times over. The hopelessness that Dosa-Mina felt. One happy event that was compounded by San-Kyung breaking out in tears, and their respective suicides, along with La-Iin’s.
The setup of it was enough to prompt him to call for Kkumneok, but the strange boy never arrived, and the scenery around him didn’t change. Dosa-Mina reached out to touch one of the strange screens, wondering if there was some way to turn them off and destroy the cacophony of so many tragedies occurring around him, but when he touched the one that depicted La-Iin’s suicide, it merely surrounded him and made him relive that same nightmare. On the sight of La-Iin’s suicide, as her blood started to drain, the dream began to disappear and all around him seemed to be sights comprised of the other nightmares once again and actual events from his life, both happy and sad.
As soon as Dosa-Mina woke up, he didn’t take the time to try and fight off the urge to harm himself. He simply reached for the small knife and cut several times at his scars. Once he was done he felt briefly concerned, wondering if he had cut enough to make him bleed as badly as he did in the nightmare, but when he checked the flow of blood it didn’t seem to be nearly as much as he had expected.
He felt terrible and confused. San-Kyung was falling into a depression, he didn’t know whether or not to believe Kkumneok–and either way, an explanation for why exactly that incident had happened–he had Lirako and Airy-Aekok pursuing his true species, and he was bleeding from cut wounds he had inflicted himself, cut wounds that San-Kyung already knew existed.
His own life felt as though it was on a downward spiral as well. And recovering it seemed near-impossible at the point he was at. He felt as though he should try, but he was exhausted. He rubbed a particularly sharp wound with the underside of his blanket to slow the bleeding, then lay back down, unconcerned of whether he was going to have a nightmare again or not. Whichever happened it certainly wasn’t going to affect him all that much, or at least not any more than he was already affected.
As he drifted off, he found one slightly disturbing thought crossing his mind–one that wished his and San-Kyung’s parents would die so that they could have an excuse to end themselves already.

—–
“Elai-Riya, I don’t think Dosa-Mina will be all that happy if you’re ransacking his room,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“He won’t be able to tell. See? I’m putting everything back as it was before. Dosa-Mina has an annoying habit of not telling me when he’s taken something for general usage.”
“You could just ask him when he gets back, you know.”
“I need it now! Oh, maybe he’s hiding it on his bed.”
As she lifted up his blanket, she was startled to see what looked like traces of blood.
“Orlin-Aesth, has Dosa-Mina hurt himself recently? You know, come home with a bloody knee or something like that?”
“No, he’s been fine as far as I’ve seen. Why?”
“Does that look like blood to you?”
Orlin-Aesth walked over to the blanket and sniffed at the spot. “It smells like his blood to me.”
Elai-Riya stared at it, concerned.
“He probably just hurt himself a little bit and got it on the blanket. We can ask him when he gets back.”
“I suppose so.”
Something in Elai-Riya told her that getting a clear answer from Dosa-Mina would be nigh impossible, but when he came home she broached the subject anyway.
“I did get a small injury the other day, but it wasn’t bleeding much. I guess it must have still been bleeding when I went to bed.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I’m not little anymore, Mom. I was able to take care of it. Though I guess not as well as I thought. Can I go now?”
Elai-Riya noticed, when she looked quickly, that Dosa-Mina’s hands seemed to be shaking. She was tempted to question him further, but the look in Dosa-Mina’s eyes told her that if he was hiding something, she wouldn’t get an answer anytime soon.
‘Still, what could he have been doing to get that injury if he’s worried about telling me?’
“You can go,” she sighed. Dosa-Mina smiled and head off.
‘If I can’t get through to him directly, there’s always the sneaky way,’ she reminded herself. Just the mere thought of tricking her son into talking made her feel terrible, but she felt it was her only way.

3.519.Love Me as I Am

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 519
“Love Me as I Am”

“San-Kyung just seems like he’s getting worse,” whispered Del-Kyuus. “I’m really worried. Maybe we should do something about it, and not just talk to him. You know he won’t say anything to us.”
“I know we probably should, but what can we do? I’ve been thinking on all the ways and I can’t figure out a single one. What would work for him? If we sent him to talk with somebody, he’d probably just reject it.”
“Well, something has to be done!”
San-Kyung sat at the table that morning, watching his parents whisper to each other, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he could overhear their every word.
Overhearing their conversation only made him feel worse than he already was. He wasn’t sure whether he should feel touched that his parents were so concerned, or angry that they didn’t think he could push past it this time. Either way none of it alleviated any of his pain.
Salsh-Era glanced at the clock. “San-Kyung, it’s getting a little late. You should probably head off to school now.”
“Oh.”
“San-Kyung, sweetie, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“No.”
“Is this because of what happened last year? You know…the Malicerie incident?”
“Yeah, you seemed pretty off right after it happened, now that I think about it,” he said. “The one-year anniversary is here. Nobody would blame you if it was about that.”
His parents’ words brought back vivid memories of being stuck in class–of tearing off his palm and only being half-aware of everything that was going on around him, choked by a horrid smell and being completely unable to move. The memories only served to make his mood plummet down further, and he stood up from his seat and walked towards the door.
“I’ll be back.”
“Be safe, okay, San-Kyung?” Del-Kyuus called. “And really, don’t hide your feelings! If it’s because of the Malicerie incident, or if it’s something else, please come to us. We won’t mind even if it’s just something you think is small. If it’s making you this upset, it means a lot to us.”
“Kyu–er, I mean, your mother is right, San-Kyung. Please talk to us.”
San-Kyung forced a small smile, but didn’t say anything further. It didn’t seem to reassure his parents, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it. He had to get to school.
He opened the door and recoiled when he saw Dosa-Mina standing in front of the door, looking as surprised as he felt before soon easing into a relaxed smile.
“What a coincidence that you’d open the door right now,” he said.
“Why would you come all this way? We meet up on the path to school.”
“I got bored waiting. Come on, we’re gonna be late. Don’t want to dent that perfect attendance, do you?”
San-Kyung glanced back at his parents. They seemed to be a bit more relaxed, their gazes focused on Dosa-Mina. “I’ve dented it a bit already, haven’t I?”
“Well, a lot of that stuff was sickness and accidents, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t even remember anymore.” He walked outside and the two head off on the path to school.
“Now that we’re out of earshot of your parents, I might as well admit the second reason why I came all the way over here instead of waiting for you to arrive.”
“It’s always ulterior motives with you, isn’t it?”
“It is a lot of the time,” he said with a smile. “Anyway…well, I know you’ve been pretty down ever since what happened last month. I have been too. And recently, something…kinda bad happened, something I don’t want to talk about right now because it requires too much explanation for just walking to school. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’d want to talk with you about it at all. I still don’t exactly trust my judgment on it.”
“Huh?”
“I know it’s silly to bring up when I’m not even going to say anything about it, but it made me feel horrible. You’ve been obviously upset for weeks now, and one stupid, incomprehensible problem of mine pops up and instead of trying to help you, I just focus on that instead.” He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Why shouldn’t you focus on yourself? You’ve been having problems for longer than this stupid one’s been around…”
“Well, it doesn’t make any sense!” He exclaimed. “Sorry, it really doesn’t. Anyway, San-Kyung, therein lies what I actually wanted to say. I know you’ve been having troubles, and so have I, but let’s not let that get in the way of our friendship, alright? I don’t want us to be meeting up and always talking about this problem or that. Our problems are a part of us, but they’re not all of us.”
“…”
“I’m going to do my best to help you, San-Kyung. Problems or not. But we also need to have fun with our lives, too. Remember how we used to play or head off to Hledshess or just walk around and have fun? We should do things like that again. But no matter what happens, San-Kyung, you’re my friend and I love you. I’m here for you through thick and thin, so don’t go doing anything drastic, okay? Promise?”
‘It’s like he’s reading my mind.’ “…I won’t. We have a promise to do that something drastic together. And anyway, I’ve still got to figure out what your problems are.”
“Hey!” Dosa-Mina exclaimed. San-Kyung gave a half-hearted chuckle in response.

***

Despite their earlier conversation, class was much as it had been for him recently–during break times he was lost in thought, dwelling on his own sadness. That Dosa-Mina seemed to be doing likewise did not make them any more tolerable, as well as the fact that some of the lessons that the teachers taught, as always, were things that he already knew, and oftentimes quite well.
Still, he felt a little bit better with Dosa-Mina’s words of reassurance. He could imagine La-Iin chiding him and calling him weak, but he pushed such thoughts away. Without Dosa-Mina, and certainly without his parents as well, despite his conviction to punish the world he might have given up already.
‘But how am I even going to achieve that dream? Without my true form, I’m at a loss every November, and it’s not much better in the months right after it. It wouldn’t be a case of the world recovering after my death, it would be a case of a staunch resistance made against me while I’m down for the count…and it would also mean eternally looking like this…
He felt swamped in negativity.
“San-Kyung!”
Hearing that voice didn’t help.
“What do you want?”
“I was just thinking about how we hadn’t talked much since I sucked your blood, and also I’ve been thinking nonstop about what you said to Ai-Reia yesterday.” She smirked. “I know you call us friends now, but I think you like me more than you let on.”
“I’m sure no matter how many times I say ‘I’m not a pedophile’ it will never get through your head.”
“You worry about that now,” she said, fluttering onto his desk. “But someday in the future, when I’m in my thirties, won’t that not be pedophile-like then?”
“Aren’t thirty-year-old Vampires in their teenage years around then?”
“I’m a special case in case you haven’t noticed. And besides, what difference does it make? Nineteen is adulthood, and nineteen is also teen.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“I’ve been worried about you, though.”
“Well, stop.”
“I’ve been thinking whether you see me the way I do or not, we’ve become more genuinely close. That horrible day that I caused last month, I felt like I was on the verge of success. I would finally beat out rival-boy!”
“Beat me out in what?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“Shut up, rival-boy! This conversation has nothing to do with you!”
“If it has nothing to do with him, then have this conversation away from him. And the next class is going to start soon, so get out of here.”
“I still want to say something to you. I’m going to try my hardest to repair all the problems I’ve caused. Your blood taught me I truly can rule the world and that no opposition can stop me as soon as I’ve figured it out. Almost all my doubts have been cast away. If your blood could do that for me, then I can repair all the sadness I’ve caused you.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Besides, I really do like you when you’re in your true form, even if I only really saw it once. But I like you as you are now, too. Either way you are, however you end up, that will never change, even if you go good. And I seriously doubt that. ….although if you start dating rival-boy I’ll question if you don’t have a few screws loose.”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway and La-Iin flinched. “Anyway, no matter how much you like me, I’m always your ally, and I always will be your ally, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that or my wiles!” With those words, La-Iin took off.
As the next class started, San-Kyung didn’t feel much better emotionally than he had been the past few days. But something about the idea of having Dosa-Mina and even La-Iin on his side felt immensely comforting to him. Perhaps things from here wouldn’t be alright, but they might just be tolerable. Somehow, this could push through to a better future.
Of course, to start off he’d have to get past this insufferable sadness first.

—–
“Someday, San-Kyung, you will be my husband, and that day you will understand why it’s your best choice!”
La-Iin screamed those words at San-Kyung as she flew past him on the way out of school. Fer-Shi chased after her, complaining about something San-Kyung couldn’t understand over the murmur of students.
“Like her or not, you have to admire her devotion to you. I think she actually thinks she would make you happy.”
“Yeah, well, if she does she’s seriously deluded. She’d make me feel worse, I bet.”
“So, saying that, when do you think you’ll drop her as a friend?”
San-Kyung blinked. “I’ll just have to wait and see on that one.”

2.518.Conspirational

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 518
“Conspirational”

“Have you heard of what Cahongyun did to Morushei, Vampiris?” Shuera-Kaizima asked her. “It sounded horrible! Almost all of Class D is terrified of her now. I am a little too…”
“Of course I have. It sounds exactly like something she would do, and I’m not surprised she did it to Molshei either,” Ai-Reia said. “In fact, I was walking out the classroom when it happened, although at the very end of what she did.”
Shuera-Kaizima’s ears twitched. “You don’t seem to like Cahongyun much, Vampiris. Even before this you didn’t like her much.”
“We didn’t talk back when we first came to Malicerie, Kokohara, and I’m not sure if you noticed the way she treated me when I first came here. But there’s no recovering from what she did back then.”
Shuera-Kaizima looked startled, but said nothing further; she scrambled back to her desk shortly before Theasis walked into the room and started Math class.
Since the Tuesday Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima had talked to her, both of them had been approaching her more often in between classes. She was grateful for their company while the break times were going on; they never talked about her family or her smarts, and focused on simple subjects or rumors and events going around the school. It never changed for her the fact that whenever she would head home for the day, she was reminded that their friendship, if there was one, would never last.
‘Outliving them is an inevitable fate. Eventually they’ll leave you behind, Ai-Reia. They have their own things to focus on. You are not a part of it.’
Yet she still longed for the times they would talk together between break times. They gave her a welcome break from her family and thoughts of La-Iin.
Ai-Reia quickly became distracted once again when she realized the first Math lesson that day was one she knew quite well. Her eyes drifted over to San-Kyung, who still looked depressed. San-Kyung was known for being on his own, save for talking to or interacting with Dosa-Mina, but it was unusual to see him as drained as he had been looking recently. Ai-Reia could only come to the conclusion that he looked that way as a result of La-Iin.
‘Hm. La-Iin and Molshei consider each other friends, but I haven’t seen them talk to each other since the bloodsucking incident. And I know Molshei is far from the most pure-hearted student in this class. Perhaps there’s something about this I could use to my advantage.’
For it wasn’t just the opening she saw from the incident that made her consider such a thing–recently, La-Iin had been on her mind frequently, as she could recall that it was around the point that La-Iin began to constantly bother her and that her life seemed to head in a downward spiral. Even dealing with all the annoying things that had come before that such as her fame and her family’s suppression of her smarts prior to that paled in comparison to La-Iin’s stalking and all that came after it.
If she could give San-Kyung an extra nudge so that he would do something about La-Iin, she could harm her enemy without doing it herself, thereby avoiding getting in trouble and also being able to watch the look of horror on La-Iin’s face as someone she considered a friend turned against her.
‘It would only be what she deserved. She hasn’t treated him well, either. And it would be so, so satisfying…’
Lost in those thoughts, Ai-Reia nearly missed a math lesson she hadn’t yet learned. She began to focus on it and allow the information to soak in.

***

Throughout her classes, Ai-Reia had already decided not to approach San-Kyung during any of La-Iin’s classes. Even being unaware of her intentions for going up to him, she felt certain that La-Iin would bother her solely on the basis of her approaching San-Kyung in the first place.
But after that she wasn’t quite sure what would be the proper time to do so. If she was overheard by the students she was certain they would be confused, and she wasn’t sure about approaching San-Kyung in the middle of class. A part of her hoped he would leave the classroom for whatever reason and give her an opening there, but as Science class started Ai-Reia realized she would have to take things into her own hands regardless of whether she wanted to or not.
After that class, she approached San-Kyung.
“Molshei, may I ask you about something?”
Ai-Reia expected San-Kyung to glare, but instead he stared at her, looking unamused. “Aren’t you a child prodigy? Figure it out yourself.”
“My child prodigy status is not important to my time at school.”
San-Kyung scoffed. “You’d think it would be.”
“I don’t understand everything about how the world works just because I’m smart, Molshei. Besides, if I’m not mistaken on average your grades are better than mine, so that should show for something.”
“I don’t help people.”
“You help me,” Dosa-Mina said.
“You’re not helping.”
“Actually, though, it’s not anything to do with grades I want to talk about,” she said, dropping her voice to a whisper. “It’s actually about La-Iin. Like many other students I was present for when she sucked your blood, and I’ve seen the state you’ve been in in days since.”
“Why does this matter to you?” Ai-Reia felt slightly startled. San-Kyung looked agitated, but his voice was devoid of most of its emotion. ‘I expected him to be more angry. I wonder if this will make things easier or harder.’
“La-Iin treated me poorly as well in the past. And while I think she’s moved past that phase in her life for both of us…I would also say to that ‘for the most part’. If she was truly through treating you badly, why would she suck your blood?”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway. “I’ll get back to you.” Ai-Reia dashed to her seat before the next teacher arrived.

***

“Ahem.”
“Leave me alone, Vampiris. My grades aren’t better than yours because I talked to people I shouldn’t have.”
“You’ve lost some of that fire you had before, Molshei,” she said. San-Kyung glared, and she smirked. “I think La-Iin truly did a number on you. This is why I offer my help. Look, I don’t particularly want to spend any time with you either–”
“Then don’t.”
“Let me finish, please. But when it comes to La-Iin, anyone willing to help me teach her a lesson is someone I’m willing to ally myself with even if for only a moment. I’ve heard you consider her a friend, but I also know the two of you didn’t always get along. Even still seeing her as a friend, perhaps there’s a way you can get back at her for what she did.”
“I don’t care.”
“About what, getting back at her? Would you rather do it in the privacy outside of school? Or are you just saying this because the two of you are friends?”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway once again, and Ai-Reia slapped her forehead. “This isn’t over yet, Molshei.”

“You know, for someone who hates La-Iin so much, you’re acting a lot like her.”
“Never, ever compare me to that demon,” Ai-Reia hissed. “Look, San-Kyung, I’m not trying to do anything other than help you, that and get a little satisfaction of my own in the end. You are notorious for how angry you are all the time. What’s stopping you from getting back at her!? Have you done it already?”
“Look, it’s none of your business, alright? I don’t care about you at all, Vampiris. If you have some stupid vendetta with La-Iin, you take it up with her yourself and stop asking me for help. I am pissed she sucked my blood. But guess what? If I had to pick to ally with her or you, I’d pick her first. After all, she is my…” He shuddered. “Friend.”
“What?”
“So cut it out. If you think I look like I’m not in a good mood, what made you think you approaching me would make that any better?”
“Oh, San-Kyung!”
Both San-Kyung and Ai-Reia flinched as La-Iin came flying at San-Kyung, latching on to his face.
“You sure do like me, don’t you, San-Kyung,” La-Iin said, her tone coy. She slid her hand into his hair. San-Kyung pulled her off of him.
“You heard that!?”
“Vampires can have pretty good hearing sometimes,” La-Iin said. “Has Ai-Reia been bothering you? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.”
“I don’t need you bothering me too. I was just trying to make her go away.”
“You always say things that make you sound more on the tough side than you actually are, San-Kyung. I like that, but your expressions give you away. That’s one advantage I have over you.” With those words, La-Iin head off towards the back of the classroom. Ai-Reia shot one last glance in San-Kyung’s direction. He looked flustered.
‘Hmph. One shot and it turns out he’s not what I expected at all. Perhaps those pedophile rumors really are true.’

—–
“Hey, Vampiris?”
“Yes, Kokohara? What is it?”
“I saw you going up to Molshei earlier, and, um, wanted to ask a question…”
“Yes?”
Shuera-Kaizima grimaced. “Ohh, I can’t do it!”
“Shuera-Kaizima wanted to ask if…well, if you went up to him because you had a crush on him,” Im-Dei said.
“What!? Not at all! And even if I had, I wouldn’t anymore after today. Molshei might come off as a tough loner, but when I went up to him I found out the truth: he’s an utter loser!”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima’s eyes widened in surprise, but they soon gave a chuckle and waved good-bye to Ai-Reia.
‘It doesn’t matter if Molshei isn’t on my side. I can handle La-Iin myself. My issue lies in if he is on her side. But still, I might be able to overcome that as well.’

30.515.Darkness Swallows You

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 515
“Darkness Swallows You”

La-Iin had always known that her reputation within Malicerie Public School had not been a positive one, and had enjoyed that. She knew that she had worsened that opinion when she sucked San-Kyung’s blood in the school hallway in front of so many students, and had been fine with that. It garnered her some unwanted attention, but she was happy to feed off of the negativity and fear of other students. It made her feel as though she had control over the school.
But as the school week progressed, she had begun to feel as though her power over the students was diminishing. The Principal seemed to be breathing down her neck, always watching her for even the slightest sign of a misstep and being wary of every rumor she was fed. The students spread ridiculous rumors and seemed to become defensive around her, and she had barely talked to any of her friends–San-Kyung seemed reluctant to say anything to anyone and Fer-Shi had deliberately avoided her up until yesterday. Only Shuu-Kena had bothered talking to her, but as far as La-Iin was concerned that was the same as talking to nobody.
She felt as if the power she had garnered from gaining her blood power was now facing a powerful opposition–the people who would now be wary of her as a result of what she had done to San-Kyung. Her power high had ended almost as soon as it had started, and she was left to be frustrated. If the students became defensive, it wasn’t just Ai-Reia she might have to worry about in the future–it was an entire resistance of people who now knew she was dangerous.
On the last day of school that week, she had finally snapped.
“You all think this will protect you, spreading rumors like this. But nothing will. All the powers you have are powers I have, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me, not a single damn thing!”
It had taken all her resistance to keep from doing anything further than yelling, but it had already done enough. After her last class, La-Iin paid another visit to the Principal, and then listened to the crowd chatter about her as she head back home with Fer-Shi by her side.
“Don’t worry, La-Iin. I’m sure all of this will die down. Remember how everyone was talking about San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina after they had just come to the school, and how everyone wouldn’t stop talking about Saoning and Kerushao last year? Don’t worry, I’m sure this’ll blow over!”
‘Even if it does, the damage has already been done,’ thought La-Iin, though she couldn’t bring herself to speak those thoughts. ‘I figured I would only have to re-plan strategies to accommodate for my new power. Now I have to re-plan strategies to accommodate for a potential resistance.’
She tried to remind herself that the possibility had always existed and she should have prepare for it in any event, but it did nothing to lessen her anger and helplessness. At that moment, La-Iin knew that if she could have her way, each and every one of the students who dared to spread rumors about her would have sustained a severe injury at that moment.

***

“La-Iin, are you alright? You look a little down.”
Mit-Sun’s question at dinner time brought her feelings of helplessness back to the surface and in full force. She glared at Mit-Sun without a response.
“Sorry, sorry! I just wanted to know if something happened at school. You know, with each day that passed this week you looked more upset when you came back home. Don’t think I didn’t notice. I’m worried.”
“Well, stop being worried. I can handle my problems myself. But this is one problem even I’m stopped on. So what makes you think you’d be able to help!?”
Mit-Sun’s expression became one of surprise. “I don’t know what has you so angry, but you don’t need to take it out on me, alright?”
“I’ve had to bottle up my rage all day, Mama. My letting it out at you isn’t anything personal, but you seem to want to make it that way.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “La-Iin, when you’ve started to cheer up a bit, come back to talk to me.”
“Hmph. For someone who wanted to improve my opinion of her, you’re being awfully lazy when it comes to trying.”
“I was trying! I asked you if you were alright! But I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is!”
“It isn’t something you would ever care about, Mama! Even if I told you and you really truly wanted to help, there would be nothing you could do and you would probably just make it worse! So just shut up and leave me alone!”
La-Iin sunk back into her seat and scarfed down the rest of her dinner. Mit-Sun’s expression gradually changed from one of fury to one of concern.
“Y–you know, La-Iin, you can talk to me anytime you need to, right? I’m always here for you.”
“Huh. Yeah right. Don’t bother, Mama. If I can’t even overcome this problem on my own, then I don’t need to be having this problem in the first place. I’m going to bed.”
As she head upstairs, La-Iin felt as though a dark cloud were hanging over her. ‘Bes-Isa told me I should aim lower. But where’s the advantage in that? That’s basically nothing to strive for. It’s nothing to me.’

***

A swarm of Malicerie students watched her on all sides, seemingly waiting for the moment she made a wrong move so they could retaliate. La-Iin herself sat on a chair in the middle of this circle, making absolutely no move.
Avian students flew above the crowd, watching her with a close eye, but the students on the ground seemed even more prepared–some of them seemed ready to take her down personally. Weapons were prepared, students practiced their powers. It was a thorough resistance, and they were giving her one chance to reform, or otherwise rebel and face the might of so many people.
It drove La-Iin mad. If she had ultimate power, none of this would be a problem. Even the blood power or her flight or transformation was not enough to save her now. But if her power had been supreme, she would be able to take them all out.
There was nothing she could do. It built up her rage until she was seething and could no longer hold herself back. She bit into her arm with a force that made her wince in pain for the first time in a long while. That seemed to be incentive enough for the students around her, who swarmed her immediately. But she was able to break through with the force of her power, flying high above the other students.
It wasn’t as if these people deserved any form of salvation. La-Iin felt it in her heart–even if she was as good as could be and had never wanted world domination, she knew that this would have pushed her over the edge. It was all too much, this feeling of powerlessness. Power was hers; power NEEDED to be hers. Without power, all her dreams of ruling the world would go to waste and be buried by people who sought to oppose her, leaving her empty and worthless. It didn’t matter what stood in her way, the true measure of her strength would come from whether or not she could succeed even with so much opposition in her way. And in her heart, La-Iin felt certain she could so long as she kept pushing forward and making active progress.
La-Iin began to soar in an arc around the students before tossing them all off balance with the quickest flight she had ever managed.
Power and the world could be hers. She had the power, the potential, and the drive. And all the time in the world to figure out the perfect way to do it.

When La-Iin woke up, she felt a renewed sense of purpose.
‘That’s right. I shouldn’t have let myself get down. I have the power. No resistance can stand in my way. I’ll use this power to the best of my ability. I’ll find out a new way for San-Kyung to transform like he wants to. I have the drive and willpower! I will rule the world!’
It was far earlier than she should normally be awake, but La-Iin felt too energized to attempt going back to sleep. Instead she plotted and planned revenge for the students, new ways to utilize her power and to rule the world, and even small tasks she could do that would assist in bringing the world to its ruin.
The dark cloud that had been hanging over her felt as though it had finally lessened. Now, instead of serving to remind her of how her evil would ultimately be pointless, it was under her command and was helping her plot her plans for world domination.

—–
“I’m sorry to come over so suddenly, La-Iin. But I wanted to make sure you’re alright. I’m really, really sorry for not talking to you all this time.”
“It doesn’t matter, Fer-Shi. I think I needed that rough patch to remind me of something very important. All these difficulties I will use to my advantage.”
“Well, um, I guess I’m glad you’re happy now?”
“I wouldn’t care even if you weren’t. I know now what I must do. This darkness swallowing me–I’ll change this darkness that wants to turn me away into a darkness that serves me as a loyal slave in my plans of world domination!”
La-Iin gave a wicked cackle, and Fer-Shi took a few steps backwards. La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. “Is that hotteok?”
“Um, yes!”
“Give me.”
Fer-Shi grinned. She set the hotteok down on the coffee table and began to share them with La-Iin.

25.510.The Fearful Students

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 510
“The Fearful Students”

“Remember when Cahongyun almost sucked Molshei dry the other day?”
“Yeah, I didn’t think she had it in her! But I guess you can’t underestimate desperate Vampires!”
“Does Molshei look alright today?”
“He looks fine. Well, a little sad, but fine otherwise. Cahongyun isn’t here yet, but–”
“Oh my gosh, she’s here now, she’s here!”
Many students in the classroom froze at the sight of La-Iin entering the classroom, Fer-Shi close behind her. Fer-Shi glanced at the students who warily eyed La-Iin and murmured among themselves.
“If she could take down a tall eleventh-grader, think of what she could do to me! Boy, I sure hope she doesn’t like Werewolf blood!”
“None of us are safe. Not even us who have thicker skin.”
‘This was happening on Friday too, but it looks like it’s gotten worse since then,’ Fer-Shi thought. She tapped La-Iin on the back.
“Um, La-Iin?”
“What do you want, Fer-Shi?”
“Have you noticed the way the students are looking at you today?”
La-Iin glanced at the classroom, and for the first time that day noticed the wary glances the students were shooting in her direction. Most turned away from her when she turned to face them, and a few flinched.
“Interesting. Is this because of what happened the other day?”
“What do you think!? La-Iin, none of this would be happening if you’d just held yourself back until I could give you some blood!”
“With how tiny you are, I think considering all the blood I drank you would be dead. In that case, I’m glad I sucked San-Kyung. There were far more benefits to sucking him than to sucking you. And he’s tasty.”
Fer-Shi groaned. “But this isn’t good. I know the students in Malicerie don’t think the best of you, but it looks like you made it even worse!”
“I don’t care. So long as San-Kyung doesn’t hate me again because I sucked his blood, I’m fine. And since it doesn’t look that way, I’m completely fine. I do like negative attention, Fer-Shi.”
Fer-Shi looked uncertain, but she offered no response.
‘Still,’ La-Iin wondered, ‘is it possible they might try to resist me if they all hate me this much? That would be a bad outcome. I should plan for that, just in case–but it’s not like they would be all that powerful against me anyway.’

***

Even when she head to the recess area after Biology class, the children from other classes seemed a mixture of wary and curious about her.
“Didja hear?” A Class B student asked. “They say that Cahongyun over there sucked an eleventh-grader’s blood so much, that he went to the hospital and died!”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” Argued a Class C student. “He’s here today, isn’t he?”
“I didn’t see him, so how do you know?”
The Class C student sighed. “But that’s pretty scary. If she could send an eleventh-grader to the hospital, think of what she could do to us!”
At that student’s words all the children fell quiet, and most shot uncertain glances in La-Iin’s direction.
“Are you bored, Cahongyun?” Shuu-Kena asked. “I’m not scared. I know it’s a Vampire thingy, right? So we can play together.”
“No. I don’t even get why you’re so pushy about this. I’m perfectly fine watching the bunch of cowards I’ve created just by existing.”
“They’re scared of the blood thing, you know,” Shuu-Kena told her. La-Iin rolled her eyes. “I know that already. But with them all scared,” she said as she hopped off the bench, “the recess area is practically mine. In fact, this is a perfect set-up! Fer-Shi said it was horrible that Malicerie is scared of me, but I think it’s wonderful! This can work to my advantage in so many ways.”
“Huh?”
“If you’re not scared, then watch.”
La-Iin stood atop the monkey bars and stared down at the cowering students below her. The sight gave her a powerful feeling, and she had to resist the urge to cackle. ‘They’re at my mercy. I could do anything I want with them. This school could be mine soon! I suppose a school isn’t the worst place to start the ruining of the world!’
She was ready to bite into her arm and transform when the door to the recess area opened, and along with students she didn’t recognize came Fer-Shi, Shan-Zetsu, and Cae-Bougen.
“La-Iin, what are you doing!?” Fer-Shi exclaimed.
“I can handle her,” Cae-Bougen said. He flew up to her and reached out, but La-Iin had taken to the air first.
“Watch what you’re doing, knave! You’re around the girl who sucked the blood of Molshei San-Kyung. Just try me!”
“I was just trying to make you get down,” Cae-Bougen sighed. He shook his head and went back to the ground. “I could probably fly above her, but…”
“You’re scared she’ll suck you?” Shan-Zetsu asked. Cae-Bougen nodded.
“I’ll deal with her.” Fer-Shi glared. “GET DOWN FROM THERE, LA-IIN!”
“Never!” La-Iin sat on the edge of the monkey bars. “Why get down when I’m having the biggest power rush of my life? Look at those students, cowering in the corner! Even the newcomers to the recess area are cowering, right next to you! …and then there’s Sara, but she’s just a weirdo.”
“You’re letting this get to your head, La-Iin! Sooner or later something’s going to happen, and you’re gonna realize the school being against you isn’t exactly a good thing!”
“Since when?” La-Iin huffed. “Look, Fer-Shi, if you calm down and acknowledge the power I have over these students, I’ll let you join me on the monkey bars.”
“No! You don’t have any power over these students! All you’re doing is scaring them, but if they wanted they could fight back!” She turned away from La-Iin. “I don’t want to join you on the monkey bars. I’m going to play with someone else.”
La-Iin glared. “Fine! Make that decision! But you’ll come to regret it, you will!”
“What if Sanhuun’s right, Cahongyun?” Shuu-Kena asked. “What if you really do get in trouble because of what happened? Do your parents know what you did?”
“What do you think?” She sneered. “I’m not interested in your opinion, Sara. Just frustrated that Fer-Shi’s being an idiot. She’ll learn, soon enough. Besides, I’m not unhappy. I have all this power.”
‘Would it be worth it if this happened when you were really ruling the world?’ La-Iin chased the thought away and relished in the power she held over the students now.

The last class was about to start, and all students who were still outside headed in. As La-Iin walked by, a student from Class A peeked her head out of her classroom.
“Heard about how you nearly sucked a guy to death,” she said, giving her a thumbs-up. “Keep up the good fight!”
“What?”
“This is exactly what I meant by negative attention,” Fer-Shi sighed.
“You meant Class A?”
“No! I meant negative attention you don’t like. Negative attention is negative for a reason, La-Iin, and I can’t believe that there’s any evil person out there who likes every kind of negative attention.”
“I’d say you believe wrong, but I don’t know that for sure. Well, I like most negative attention!”
“Just be quiet, La-Iin. I’m almost embarrassed to be around you today.”
She walked ahead of her. “Well, you’re pissing me off!” With a huff she head back to the Class D classroom and took her seat, on her way there glancing at San-Kyung. He looked fully recovered and not strange and pale as he had on Friday, but the look in his eyes seemed strange to La-Iin. He looked incredibly sad.
‘I hope he’s okay.’
The students were ready for their last class when in walked not their teacher, but instead Sharai.
“Miss Cahongyun?” He called. “Sorry to interrupt your last class, but the Principal would like to talk to you about something.”
“Huh?”
“Come on, let’s go. You don’t have to hold up class for her either, guys–the Principal’s orders.”
La-Iin hopped out of her seat and followed Sharai, curious as to what the Principal might want her for. ‘Probably something stupid. Or maybe she wants to join my cause! I doubt that. The Principal seems like a goody-goody, maybe neutral…’
“Miss Cahongyun. Sit down.”
La-Iin flew into her seat. “What do you want?”
“Don’t take that tone with me. I have something very important to ask you. Did you truly suck someone’s blood so much that he went to the hospital and died?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. She felt like slamming her head onto the table, but resisted the urge as she pointed out the obvious to the Principal.

—–
“Our Principal is even stupider than I thought. You’d think she would have known what happened already. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything.”
“La-Iin, it really doesn’t sound all that good to have as bad a reputation as you do now. I know what you said, you like negative attention, but don’t you think you should try and repair it so people don’t slander you? It’ll be pretty hard if students start saying you murdered someone again.”
“I’ll deal with that hurdle if it ends up being a problem. For now, I’ll relish in my power over my students.”
“Your students…?”
“Getting a bit power-crazy there, aren’t we?”
“It might seem that way to you, Bes-Isa, but I’ll show you. I have my reasons for acting this way, and they are perfectly valid reasons. When the world is mine, I will have reason to be power-crazy!”
Mit-Sun and Bes-Isa sighed.