11.649.The Blood of Your Bloodline

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 649
“The Blood of your Bloodline”

La-Iin spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday collecting blood boxes.
With her recent confidence, La-Iin’s initial plan had been to steal the blood boxes from the local store Mit-Sun went to. But when circumstances changed, she used vuyong found around the house, and vuyong found on walks with Choungetsu. When she stopped by the graveyard where Imagination lived, the girl wasn’t there, but she noticed that there was a lot of scattered vuyong in the abandoned houses nearby.
She also obtained vuyong from other sources, too.
“Why do you need to borrow vuyong? I don’t have much, and anyway, you can just suck my blood.”
“I feel a blood craving coming on, that’s why. Do you want to siphon…I think it’s siphon….do you want to do that to your blood and give it to me in a blood box!?”
“Eek! N-no!” She gave her a small amount of vuyong. “Fine, La-Iin, but you owe me!”
“Heh heh. Don’t worry, Fer-Shi, soon I’ll be more than able to pay you back! If I feel like it, that is…”
Fer-Shi rolled her eyes. “Hey, that sounds like you’re going to be selling something.”
She had made quite a bit of vuyong from searching around on walks, but she couldn’t help the pull of taking vuyong from others. Had circumstances not changed so drastically, she might have even stolen it. But instead she went around asking at a few places for vuyong, preparing threats in advance.
They didn’t always work.
“Do you honestly think I’d give vuyong to a little girl who hates me? Sorry, La-Iin, but the answer’s no!” Dosa-Mina said.
“Why are you even bothering me about this?” San-Kyung snapped.
“Oh, vuyong? I don’t have much, but here you go.” Shuu-Kena dropped some coins into La-Iin’s hand.
“Hm.”
“Something wrong?”
“No.” She held the vuyong close. “Oh, how are you?”
“Me?” Shuu-Kena smiled. “I’m fine, thank you. I’ve been painting a lot this weekend. And my family stole a lot of chocolate ice cream because my mom started bleeding all over the place. And I got to have some of it too.”
“Chocolate ice cream?” La-Iin was intrigued. “Maybe one of these days I should rip my arm open and see if that works.”
“Her arm wasn’t ripped open, though. But I wonder if that would really work? Maybe I should try it too. Oh, I think she was bleeding from her leg.”
“Good information. …although something seems disgustingly familiar about this information…” She shook her head. “I have a mission to finish! Continue painting, Shuu-Kena.”
“Um, okay?” Shuu-Kena sounded genuinely confused, but she waved to La-Iin as she took off.

After she felt she had enough vuyong, La-Iin had forced Mit-Sun to lead her to the store so she could buy blood boxes.
“Where did you get all that vuyong from?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Off the ground when I was out with Choungetsu. There’s a lot of vuyong to find because people are stupid.”
“…what.”
“You should look closely when you walk Choungetsu next. But I might have gotten all the stray vuyong.” La-Iin giggled as she took several blood boxes from the shelf. She struggled slightly under their weight. Mit-Sun helped balance her, and she also helped her take the many blood boxes to the register.
When the Lizardfoot cashier rung them up, La-Iin gave an empty chuckle. The blood boxes were slightly more than what she had.
She turned around and began to curse under her breath.
“Stupid stupid stupid vuyong, this is what happens when you do things legally, someday I’ll show you, someday you’ll see…”
“Don’t worry about it, La-Iin. I can spot you.” She took the pouch of vuyong La-Iin was carrying, handed it to the cashier, and handed him a little extra from her. The cashier sighed in frustration as he went over La-Iin’s scattered vuyong, but in the end it was enough, and La-Iin and Mit-Sun walked home carrying many blood boxes.
“What are all these blood boxes for anyway?”
“I feel a blood craving coming on. And I don’t want to rely on other people to satiate it.”
“That’s strange. I thought you liked drinking from the source.”
“I do, but some of the tastiest people don’t let me. And I’m under certain circumstances right now.”
“What circumstances?”
La-Iin didn’t answer her and instead said, “Mama, can we invite Dami and Granddami over tomorrow?”
“Why?”
“I want to see both of them. You could say I have a…present for them.”
“Uh, sure. In fact, I could probably get them both to come over at the same time. They might be happy to talk again.”
“Good.”
Even with the weight of the blood boxes in her arms, La-Iin walked with confidence. ‘Though it didn’t matter that you said yes,’ she said to herself, ‘I would have invited them over anyway.’

***

The blood boxes were placed in their own part of the refrigerator, and the next day, as promised, Mit-Sun called Asul-Zenza and Beht-Soh.
When La-Iin heard a knock at the door, she came running. Asul-Zenza arrived first, and she leaped into his arms.
“Hello, La-Iin!” Asul-Zenza cooed. La-Iin hugged him tight, then flew away from him.
“To what do I owe the visit?”
“She said she has–”
“Nothing! You’ll find out later.”
“Oh, Asul-Zenza!”
Asul-Zenza turned around. Beht-Soh was behind him, walking up the path to the Cahongyun house. “Hello, Asul-Zenza.”
“Hello, Mr. Cahongyun! I’m glad to see you’re looking better.”
“I’m feeling better too. Though Mit-Sun’s still worried about me. When she called earlier today she said ‘Papa, if you can’t make it, you don’t have to come, alright?'”
“Papa! I mean–Father! Our conversation was private!” Mit-Sun’s face turned bright red. Beht-Soh and Asul-Zenza chuckled as they entered the house. La-Iin noticed they quickly lapsed into a conversation with each other.
Just as she was about to head upstairs, one thing in their conversation piqued her curiosity.
“Sometimes I forget you’re only a bit younger than me, Asul-Zenza. It’s kind of weird.”
“It does feel weird. Ah, I go between feeling like an old Vampire around La-Iin to feeling like a young one around other people.”
“Well, in terms of Vampire years, you’re still younger than me and Mit-Sun. It really is strange.”
“How much older than Dami are you, Granddami?” La-Iin asked.
“Oh, only one or two years. I forget my age sometimes.”
“Really? I thought it was three.”
“Well, it could be. But I’m not seventy yet, so…” Beht-Soh’s face screwed up as he started to calculate his age. La-Iin quickly lost her patience and head upstairs to prepare.

“Why did La-Iin call us here, I wonder?”
“I don’t know, but she’s taking a long time. I don’t mind making dinner while you’re here, Father, but as for Asul-Zenza…”
Asul-Zenza glared. “Oh, come now, Mit-Sun. Stop denying that the animosity between us has decreased recently.”
“Maybe for you, but I still feel it strongly. I’m just better at repressing it now.”
Asul-Zenza scoffed. “I swear, she flip-flops so often on this!”
“That’s Mit-Sun for you.”
“Papa, don’t goad him on! I mean–damn it! Father!”
Asul-Zenza giggled. Mit-Sun threatened him with a fist, but La-Iin arrived before it made contact. Mit-Sun put it down slowly, but La-Iin noticed and narrowed her eyes. She cleared her throat.
“I have gifts for you.”
“Gifts?”
“Really?”
“…not exactly.”
“Hm? Then what do you have for us?”
“For Granddami, here.” La-Iin handed him a crude paper book. When Beht-Soh opened the book, he saw several pages of crayon-drawn clothing. “You said you were learning how to sew, right? Try sewing these.”
“Oh….um.” Beht-Soh flipped through the book with a troubled expression on his face, but he smiled when he caught La-Iin’s eye. “I’ll certainly try, La-Iin. Thank you.”
“And for Dami!”
“Hm?”
“I used Mama’s computer and–”
“You used my computer?” Mit-Sun asked. La-Iin ignored her.
“In a Manemican Vampire society they’re welcoming Vampires from all over the place to come by and visit. Apparently they’re holding a special Festival of Blood over there.”
“Really? Oh, but I would have to prepare for something that far.”
“You should go with your Mama and Dami, too.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Why not? They’re Vampires.”
Asul-Zenza blinked. “I guess I could always ask them. I only hope they have time off….it would be fun.”
“And go ahead and tell Ei-Tio’s family too, and tell Ei-Tio that I’m preparing something special for her and I won’t be able to see her until later. I don’t want her seeing it before it’s done.”
“Alright, then, I will.”
“How do you know this is even true?”
“I’ll look into it. I actually have a Vaelis-Enlash dictionary in my house, so I think I’ll be fine if any resources happen to be in Enlash.”
“That’s what I have for you.”
“Thank you, La-Iin,” Beht-Soh said, though he still cast a troubled look at the book.
“Yes. If this is true, and my parents have off time, it ! But what about you?”
“I have school,” she grumbled. “But don’t worry. I got several blood boxes yesterday. I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the Festival of Blood in Vaelyn anyway. They’re having it too far away from Bledger.”
“How do you know this?” Mit-Sun asked. She sounded genuinely confused. Again La-Iin ignored her as she talked with Beht-Soh and Asul-Zenza about what she had just given them.
‘Not bad,’ she thought. ‘A lot easier than Ai-Reia, anyway.’

—–
“Oh, Mama.”
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“I was thinking about you, too. Have you ever heard of a place called Vibrator?”
“…vibrator? No, and I’m not sure I want to.”
“They have vibrating furniture inside so you can relax. I saw the prices and I asked around.”
“How do you know about this place?” Mit-Sun sounded uncertain.
“Me and Fer-Shi were…considering going to it once, but we didn’t have the vuyong. And I thought you could use a break, so I also thought I’d tell you about it.”
“What’s the catch?”
“Nothing.”
“Why are you telling me about this?”
“So you can relax. You could even invite…ugh…Haner if you wanted to. In fact, he likes Makeshire, doesn’t he? There’s also a Makeshire play.”
“…”
“…so can I sleep over with Fer-Shi sometime soon?”
“That’s it?” Mit-Sun said with a chuckle. “I honestly thought it was something nefarious…geez, you’ve been pretty nice lately, huh? But how much do you want to sleep over with Fer-Shi that you’re even okay with me inviting Uil-Cur?”
“Very. She mentioned something to me at school that I have to see in person.”
“Alright then, La-Iin, just tell me when you want to go. I’ll look into these things you mentioned.”
She turned around, but then asked, “Hey, why did you give that book to Father, and tell Asul-Zenza about that festival anyway?”
“I want more clothes, and I’m hoping Dami will bring me blood. So don’t you worry, Mama. My “kindness” is all out of selfishness.”
Mit-Sun chuckled. “It’s nice all the same. It still feels a little unsettling, though…”
‘Now how to get rid of her unsettled feeling. There has to be something I’m overlooking…’
Throughout Sunday night, La-Iin continued to think on what ways she could make her “kind” deeds seem more selfish.

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9.647.A Reason to Trust You

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 647
“A Reason to Trust You”

It was dinner time at the Sara house, and all in the family were sitting at the table–all except for Nim-Ghini.
“Your father has been letting himself get arrested too much lately, I swear.”
That, as it happened, was the source of the conversation at the table.
“Certainly, I wonder if he’s losing his finesse.”
“That’s why we, the next generation, should take his place!”
“In due time, Kyu-Aseri. You two lack the physical strength needed to take over completely.”
“What about me? I’m nearly a major. Of course, that’s going by law…which I don’t.”
“Hm, true…”
“I think you don’t deserve to head the Saras right now, Ther-Aoughin.”
“And what would make you say that, Kyu-Nhogo?”
“What you have over Kyu-Aseri and I in physical strength, you lack in mental torture.”
“I do prefer to just assault people and end it.”
“That’s your problem. You lack the finesse of mental torture. That and manipulation.”
“Oh, sweet, sweet, manipulation! I have to say that is my favorite of all the mental tortures. Have you manipulated anyone before, Mama?”
“Aha ha. What a stupid question to ask, Kyu-Aseri, of course I have. I’ve manipulated Ther-Aoughin, and I’ve manipulated Shuu-Kena, and I manipulated your father into getting me pregnant with her, speaking of…I’ve even manipulated you and Kyu-Nhogo.”
“Ooh!”
“Manipulation is a staple of an evil person. You should learn it in due time, Ther-Aoughin. You can ask Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo about it. It seems to be their field of expertise.”
“I see. And I suppose in turn I could help them bulk up to do physical damage. All in the interest of the supremacy of the Saras.”
Shuu-Kena poked at her food.
“Is it really a staple of an evil person, manipulation?”
“Why do you ask, Shuu-Kena?”
“A neutral such as herself apparently does not understand the goings-on of the evil mind.”
“Even with an evil ‘friend’ herself.”
“I would say it is, Shuu-Kena. In fact, I just did. Manipulation is very important to evil people, and knowing how to do it well even moreso. We live in a world where sometimes it’s easier to use people than it is to just mindlessly beat them out of your way. Any evil person worth their salt is a manipulator whether good or bad, and if they aren’t thinking of it they’re either ignorant or they might as well be neutral.”
“True, if you’re evil you’ll likely manipulate others in some way or another!”
“Especially if one has lofty political goals such as domination over an area. Manipulation is a trick of the trade for politicians as well!”
Her family began to laugh raucously, but their talk only made Shuu-Kena feel uncomfortable. She could remember why she and La-Iin had become friends–she had only opened up to her once she knew her family was evil.
Was it possible La-Iin was manipulating her?

***

The next day at school, Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but heave a sigh.
Science class had just ended, and now she sat on the bench in the recess area, watching La-Iin and Fer-Shi play. She wasn’t one to believe what her family said, but it did make her wonder.
It was impossible to know if La-Iin was manipulating her unless she did something to outright prove it. But with the circumstances of their friendship, she felt there was reason to be concerned.
She watched as Cae-Bougen flew up behind Fer-Shi, who was falling off the monkey bars. La-Iin began to laugh, and Fer-Shi growled at her. Cae-Bougen said something that she couldn’t understand, and Fer-Shi smiled in response. She turned back to La-Iin, again said something that couldn’t be understood, and went off with him.
La-Iin seemed frustrated. She flew over Shuu-Kena’s head. Shuu-Kena waved to her.
“Oh, hello, Sara.”
“Hi, La-Iin.”
‘Wait. Fer-Shi’s off with Veiner right now. Maybe this is my chance to get an idea of where I stand…’
Shuu-Kena knew she didn’t want to stop being friends with La-Iin, but perhaps it would at least be reassuring to know whether she was being manipulated or not.
“Good timing. Can I talk to you about something?”
La-Iin landed and stood in front of her. “What?”
“I wanted to ask your opinion on something my family told me about yesterday.” La-Iin rolled her eyes. “You know how they’re evil. Well, my mom and my siblings said that they think that manipulation is a defining trait in every evil person, and evil people who don’t manipulate others might as well be neutral. Basically. I wanted to know what you thought.”
“Manipulation is a helpful skill for an evil person,” La-Iin said. Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “I don’t know about evil people who don’t know manipulation being neutrals, though.”
“I see…well, I guess it would be. It makes sense…manipulation seems like one of those ‘evil’ actions. Of course evil people would like it.”
‘Don’t get so upset!’ She chided herself. ‘You knew this was probably coming. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about you. Although it probably says something about her priorities…’
Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but feel immensely disappointed in La-Iin. And La-Iin could tell by the look on her face.
‘Damn it! No! Not so close! Now she believes I think the same way as those Sara idiots. What now…’
La-Iin bit into her finger.
“…of course, not every evil person uses that manipulation, or at least, not constantly,” she said casually. Shuu-Kena looked up.
“You don’t have to reassure me, La-Iin.”
“I was just saying the truth. Besides…” La-Iin pondered her next words carefully. “Not everyone I associate with needs to be manipulated. Like you, for example.”
“Huh?”
“If I were to manipulate you it would probably be for information on your family…which I don’t need because in my opinion, your family is nothing but evil failures! No, I keep you as a friend for different reasons.”
“Like what?”
“You’re enjoyable to be around.”
“Really?”
“Yes. I don’t like to associate with people who annoy me constantly. Such as your family.”
Shuu-Kena’s dejected expression slowly brightened, though La-Iin could see she still wasn’t completely happy.
“You really don’t like them, huh. I always thought that was kind of strange.”
“Evil people don’t always get along, Sara. I think we get along even worse than goody-goodies do.”
“Maybe. That sounds like it would make sense.”
“Sara, you need to learn a lesson.”
“Hm?”
“I’m not the same as your family just because I’m evil. You said it yourself, you see me as different. So quit it.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Yeah, sorry, Cahongyun. You’re right. Sometimes even though I know you better than that, I can’t help but find my mind slipping back into that mindset. I guess I just have a hard time trusting evil people. I have nothing against them, but my family tends to make me think they’re all the same…but they’re just like good people and neutral people, all doing things for different reasons. I’m sorry I compared you two.”
“You should be, and I don’t like accepting apologies, but being compared to those failures is horrible.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. La-Iin smirked. ‘Good. This should be good enough for now. But she seems easy enough to appease. Convincing her entirely will be another story…but I can’t let her stupid family make her turn against me. I need her on my side.’
La-Iin sighed. ‘That reminds me of someone else I thought that about…’

—–
“Oh, I wanted to ask you something about manipulation, Mama.”
“What’s that, Kyu-Aseri?”
“Do you think Shuu-Kena’s friend manipulates her?” She said with a yawn.
“If she’s truly evil, then yes, she does. But that’s not important. Rest now so that tomorrow you have the energy to do what is necessary.”
Kyu-Aseri nodded and closed her eyes.

21.629.Betrayal and Desire

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 629
“Betrayal and Desire”

“I’m glad that it’s getting cooler. Summer is always too hot!”
“I agree, but Winter is still waiting,” La-Iin said. “In Summer the sun beats down on me and in Winter my wings freeze down to the bone. Extreme weather is not my ally…”
“Is it anyone’s?”
“Snowlivs, maybe.” A Snowliv child from Class A looked up at her words.
“Yeah, but even they don’t do very well with extremely hot weather.”
“Yes. I’ve always wondered how Snowlivs survived to this day with the way their species works.”
The two girls sat there in silence after that, both trying to think up a game they could play.
‘We’ve done so many things at the recess area!’ Fer-Shi thought. ‘How can we do something new?’
‘I wonder if that would even be a good idea for a game…’
After a while of thinking, longer than it normally took for the two to start playing, Fer-Shi finally had an idea. But before she could voice it, a group of small children walked up to her.
“Hello!” The child at the front said.
“Hi!”
La-Iin stared at the children indignantly.
“Um, are you Sanhuun from Class D? The one who Dereni tried to eat?”
Fer-Shi looked slightly disturbed. “Y-yes, that’s me. Although he didn’t really try to eat me.”
“He was tryna basically tenderize you! That’s eaty enough!”
“Can you tell us about what happened? The grown-ups and the more grown-up kids won’t tell us because Dereni keeps glaring at them.”
La-Iin noticed Daal-Dan sitting a short distance away, glaring. ‘If he’s so mad, why doesn’t he just sing and knock out the whole school?’
“Weren’t you there?”
“Dereni is scary!” One of them said.
“Besides, we’re not as brave as most of the boys were.”
“So we mostly tried to hide from him.”
“Can you pleeease tell us?”
Fer-Shi sighed.
“You really want me to, don’t you?”
The children nodded.
“What about our recess area game?”
“It can wait. What happened with Dereni isn’t a long story. Besides, I’ve got the perfect idea for a game we can play! So once I tell them, we can start right away!”
La-Iin was astounded. She watched Fer-Shi go off with the children and start to tell them the story of what had happened with her and Daal-Dan. She gave a huff of anger.
“Jealous?”
La-Iin hadn’t noticed that Shuu-Kena was sitting nearby. She startled, but quickly recovered.
“What does it seem like?”
“Don’t worry. While she talks to the littler kids, you can always talk to me.”
“Those kids are probably my age,” she grumbled.
“You’re probably even younger since you’re half-Vampire.”
“I am the age I am. If I concede defeat to my species, then a certain….situation could become more of a problem for me.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s not important.”
“Hm.” Shuu-Kena looked away from her briefly; then she turned back to her. “So, how was your Summer?”
La-Iin thought back on all that had happened. “I suppose it was okay,” she said. When she recalled one particular event, however, she began to smirk. “No, more than that. I almost forgot that something amazing happened last month.”
“I see. Well, um, my Summer wasn’t the greatest. My family’s been a little more active lately. Once they all went out together on a raid. It was my little sisters’ first raid. But they left me home. I guess that’s a good thing, but I just feel so confused about it.”
“Raid? Raid for what?”
Shuu-Kena shook her head. “I have no idea.”
“Whatever the raid was for, it sounds idiotic.”
“Would you do a raid if you could, La-Iin? I know you and my family do things differently, but I was curious.”
“There are better things to be doing than a raid. If I could, I’d do one of those instead!” La-Iin said. “Sara, your family is all evil failures in my eyes. They have potential, but they fail to use it. Also they have the notable handicap of being Pureblood Normals. And I’m sure they plan almost nothing through before they carry it out. Not like I do, heh heh heh…”
La-Iin balled a hand into a fist. Shuu-Kena gave her an uncertain glance. “You do seem to be thinking a lot.”
“Always. My plans require a lot of thought, after all. Without it they would fall apart. And I’m no fool.”
“I guess it is good to plan things in advance. So, um, what’s the good thing that happened over the Summer?”
“It isn’t your business, Sara, though I suppose I could give you a hint. We were just talking about something related to it, after all. …you know, Sara, I truly think my plans will succeed. Unlike those of your family. I have the power and the means; I just need some things to bring it all to fruition…”
When La-Iin snapped out of her mini daydream, she noticed that Shuu-Kena’s expression was uncertain. “Why are you making that face?” ‘I shouldn’t go into too much detail. Sara shouldn’t know about this.’
Shuu-Kena sighed. “No reason, really. Well, I don’t know. What you said just there though, the way you said it reminded me a lot of my family…sorry, I guess sometimes I forget you’re evil because you act so differently from them. They try to ingrain it into every aspect of their life.”
“I might do that too. Unfortunately I have other things to focus on right now.”
La-Iin focused on Shuu-Kena’s expression as she spoke. It only became more uncertain, and somewhat upset. It seemed obvious to her now–she was upset by her behavior.
‘Damn it. It’s too obvious.’ Shuu-Kena seemed to be a somewhat helpful ally–she would rather have her on her side than against her. There had to be something she could say to wipe the uncertain expression off her face.
‘Got it.’
“But those other things are important. I am evil, and it is a big part of me. But I’m not going to be doing evil sitting because that sounds silly.”
In actuality it brought to La-Iin’s mind images of sitting atop a stack of people, but she kept the imagination to herself. Shuu-Kena’s expression seemed to ease a bit.
“Oh, I wasn’t trying to say anything about your evil, Cahongyun.”
“I didn’t say that because of what you said.”
“Hehe, I guess I read too much into it, then.”
“I was just saying it randomly. Your family astounds me with how stupid their evilness seems. Evil people don’t often agree, after all. They seem to not plan and to do the most petty things. And they’re ignoring one important thing.”
“Are they?”
“You can have bonds with non-evil people and still be evil. In fact, people say friendships are good, but they’re actually a helpful evil asset and for a different reason than you might think.”
“Really?”
La-Iin was reminded of San-Kyung’s words. “Yes. Your family may be close to the rest of each other, but there’s something that seems off. I don’t know, they annoy me.”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “You know, La-Iin, I’m really glad you actually became friends with me.”
La-Iin was going to respond, but just then Fer-Shi walked up to her. “Sorry, they kept me a little long. But now I can tell you about that perfect idea!” Her eyes dritfted to Shuu-Kena. “Well, if you still want to play…”
“I do.” La-Iin stood up. “Tell me what it is. But Sara.”
“Hm?”
“Even by the most petty evil standard, your family is made up of idiots.”
Shuu-Kena giggled. “They really are, aren’t they?”
She almost sounded sad, but the smile on her face seemed to be one of genuine happiness. After that, La-Iin turned back to Fer-Shi, who began to explain her game of Witches and their powers. As she listened to her describe it, only one more thought about Shuu-Kena crossed her mind.
‘How could I be betrayed when I know the perfect way to prevent it?’

—–
That night, as the Saras ate dinner, Shuu-Kena was reminded of La-Iin’s earlier words.
“Even by the most petty evil standard, your family is made up of idiots.”
Against her better judgment she began to laugh wildly.
“Why are you laughing?” Ther-Aoughin asked.
“Perhaps she’s finally gone off the deep end,” Kyu-Aseri said.
“Come, sister, come join the dark side!” Kyu-Nhogo said.
“I have an inkling it’s not as great as all that,” Hei-Yhunni sighed.

15.623.Fer-Shi’s Peculiar Harem

The La-Iin Series
Capter 623
“Fer-Shi’s Peculiar Harem”

“La-Iin, I can’t wait until you have to come to science class. I didn’t really like it at first, but it’s a lot of fun now! I think you’ll really enjoy it.”
“By the time I have to come to science class…” La-Iin’s face wrinkled. “San-Kyung will be graduated, won’t he?”
“Um, I think so? But you’ll still have me, and you’ll still have Sara!”
“Yes, but San-Kyung…”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Well, don’t worry for now. He’s still here for a little longer. But yeah! Science class is over now, so let’s play!”
La-Iin leaped for the monkey bars and scrambled up them. Fer-Shi chased after her. She could hear Shuu-Kena giggling behind them. La-Iin hopped off the monkey bars and began to chase after her, and Fer-Shi gave a shriek of delight and began to move quickly. The two were soon caught in a loop of chasing each other across the monkey bars.
Fer-Shi finally found an opportunity to catch La-Iin, reaching for her as she stumbled across the monkey bars. She was about to reach her, but she fell and crashed onto the monkey bars.
“Ow…”
“Are you alright?”
A young Normal boy was staring up at her.
“I–I’m fine…” She pushed herself up and hopped off the monkey bars, though her hop was a little lopsided. The boy caught her and steadied her.
“Um, thanks.”
“Not a problem, Sanhuun.”
“You know my name? I don’t recognize you.”
“We aren’t in the same letter. I’m from Class B, Dereni Daal-Dan. I’ve seen you several times on this playground, Sanhuun.”
“Really? Well, I am here a lot. I’ve never really noticed you before!”
“That’s alright. Oh! I never explained why I know your name. I had to find it out so I looked at the school roster.”
“Why’d you have to?”
“Fer-Shi, why are you playing with that boring boy?” La-Iin called.
“I’m just talking to him! I’ll play with you again in a minute!” Fer-Shi called back.
“Cahongyun, right?”
“Yeah. She’s my best friend!”
“I thought so. You two always play on this playground. Anyway, I had to find it out because otherwise I wouldn’t know the name of the girl I like so much.”
“You like me?”
“If it were up to me I’d make you my wife right now!”
“What!?” Fer-Shi’s face flushed.
“Yes! I’m going to marry you! That’s my decision. But I have my own way of doing things. I’m not just going to make you marry me. No, I’m going to make you love me, and then you’ll marry me, and I’ll only feel true satisfaction then!”
By now Daal-Dan was holding on to Fer-Shi’s shoulders. Her face felt incredibly warm and she drew away from him.
“I, um…I didn’t know!”
“You’ll see, Sanhuun. Someday I’ll make you love me, and then we’ll be married and have a happy family! And if possible that’ll be when we’re nineteen!”
“Um, uh, well, I should…probably get back to playing with La-Iin…” Fer-Shi ran back to La-Iin’s side. La-Iin was propped against the monkey bars, glaring at Fer-Shi and oblivious to the glare a young Class C student was giving her for blocking the monkey bars.
“I see.”
“I’ve never even meet Dereni before. I don’t know why he likes me so much!”
“…”
“What’s wrong, La-Iin? Don’t tell me you’re mad at me just because he likes me! I don’t even know him! I’m so confused. I don’t understand how love can seem so normal to you, La-Iin.”
“My love for San-Kyung and the love he’ll have for me someday is in a league nobody but us could understand. But I think I understand why he said what he did.”
“Huh? What? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I need to think on it more first, Fer-Shi. But I’m not mad at you. Something’s bothering me.”
“Huh…”
Fer-Shi turned to see Daal-Dan again. He was talking to two other children about something she couldn’t hear. Standing nearby him was Shan-Zetsu and Cae-Bougen, but Fer-Shi was startled when she noticed that their eyes were narrowed and their gazes fixed on her.
“Um…Shan-Zetsu? Veiner? Are you mad at me?”
“Did Dereni just talk to you?” Shan-Zetsu asked.
“Yeah, he did. And he said something really embarrassing…”
“Did he say he wanted to marry you?” Cae-Bougen asked. Fer-Shi’s face flushed. “Yeah…geez, love is so confusing! I don’t know why teenagers and adults like it so much.”
“It’s just nasty. But it’s actually more than that with Dereni. Fer-Shi, you shouldn’t talk to Dereni again!”
“Huh? Why not?”
“You can’t trust Dereni, that’s why,” Cae-Bougen said. “So you should try and pretend he never said that to you.”
“Huh? But why?”
“We’ll tell you in a little bit. We need to do something first.” And the two boys walked off.
“Wow, those two really don’t like Dereni,” Shuu-Kena said. Fer-Shi flinched.
“O-oh, Sara! You saw that?”
“Um, yes. They seemed really angry about Dereni.”
“Yeah, I wonder why.”
“They said you couldn’t trust him. I wonder.”
“Or maybe they want to marry you too,” La-Iin said. Fer-Shi became flustered.
“Really!? You really think that they would want to marry me too!?”
“Don’t sound so indignant. Lots of people want to marry San-Kyung as well. Or it feels like a lot. …too bad those fools are bound by their ‘law’ and aren’t able to do so…” La-Iin began to giggle. “So it’s possible you have a harem.”
“What!? I think you’re being ridiculous.”
“Sanhuun! Is it true that Dereni said he wanted to marry you?”
This time Fer-Shi didn’t recognize the voice that called out for her. Behind her was a small group of boys who looked quite concerned.
“Um, yeah, he did.” ‘It’s really spreading across the recess area, isn’t it?’
“Oh no! Sanhuun, watch out for Dereni, okay!?”
“Yeah, you can’t trust him!”
“I can’t? Veiner said that too.”
“Don’t worry, Sanhuun!” The boys crowded around her. “We’ll protect you!”
“I don’t think I need to be protected,” Fer-Shi chuckled. “I don’t see what’s so bad about Dereni. Did he do something wrong?”
The boys began to look wary, and reluctant to speak up.
“Hey, Veiner! I think classes just ended! We should go inside and get Azei’s brother!”
Cae-Bougen nodded, and he and Shan-Zetsu head inside.
“Really, what’s going on? Dereni said he wanted to marry me and all of a sudden all the boys want to protect me from him.”
“It’s not just the boys who are worried,” a young girl from Class C said. “But they’re right, you shouldn’t trust Dereni at all! You don’t have a crush on Dereni, do you?”
“I never even met him before today.”
The girl breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, that’s good. You need to be careful around Dereni, okay?”
“Seriously, what’s going on!?”
“Dereni probably did something bad,” Shuu-Kena said.
“Or it’s just a harem. Maybe all the boys under Grade 5 want to marry you too.”
“I seriously doubt that’s the case, La-Iin…”
Shan-Zetsu and Cae-Bougen returned to the recess area not long after leaving, behind them a lanky Skeletaltype boy. A younger Skeletaltype boy stared up at him with a smile.
“Gim-Karr! Why are you at the recess area?”
“These two boys told me that Daal-Dan told a girl called Sanhuun he liked her,” Gim-Karr said. “And they said that I could explain better than anyone else why she shouldn’t trust him.”
“Are you gonna tell me why all the boys are worried about Dereni?” Fer-Shi asked. Gim-Karr nodded. He looked around the recess area. Fer-Shi followed his gaze, and noticed it rest on Daal-Dan, who was standing near the edge of the recess area. A girl from his class was talking to him, but Fer-Shi could tell that he seemed slightly distracted.
“Daal-Dan comes from the dangerous Dereni family,” Gim-Karr said. “Before he came to Malicerie, his brother Dereni Far-Hee was in Class B. This was a while back. I was a little kid when it happened. I left Malicerie for a while, though…but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, everyone really liked Far-Hee because he was so gentlemanly. And then one day, he said he wanted to marry another student in our class called Kanhin Teri-Ui, a transfer student who came all the way from Aena.”
Gim-Karr dropped his voice. “Teri-Ui really liked Far-Hee so he was so happy when he said that. So they started dating, but one day Teri-Ui didn’t make it to school. His parents called the cops when he didn’t show up for three days in a row. And when they inspected the Dereni house…they found out that Far-Hee had cannibalized him. You see, Far-Hee and Daal-Dan are half-Sirens and they are raised by a staunchly traditionalist family. Far-Hee was arrested and he’s in jail for life now. And then last year, Daal-Dan joined Malicerie. He’s tried to do the same thing Far-Hee did, except he’s never succeeded.”
“I heard that.”
Gim-Karr flinched. “Sorry kiddos, gotta go!” He dashed back inside. Daal-Dan approached Fer-Shi and made an innocent expression.
“Dereni, is it true that your brother did all that?”
“My brother is my brother. I’m me, and I really do want to marry you, Fer-Shi. Don’t you believe me? We’ll have such a happy family, you and I….”
Fer-Shi cringed. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t even know you for one thing…tell me, are you really half-Siren?”
Daal-Dan’s face contorted. He took a deep breath. The children in the recess area began to panic, and they screamed at the top of their lungs. Daal-Dan bit his tongue and closed his mouth.
“You lied to me…”
“Tch. Stupid Azei!”
“Dereni!” Fer-Shi yelled. “You don’t have to be the same as your big brother. You can always get meat another way. Please, society’s changed, and I don’t want you to get in trouble. Even if you really want to eat me, I don’t care. You don’t seem like you’re that bad a person…”
“You wouldn’t understand, Sanhuun. But since my secret’s out now, I guess that means I won’t be finding an easy meal here. Fine then, nobody dies…here, at least.”
Daal-Dan head back into the school. Fer-Shi sighed.
“I should have known that was the bad feeling I was getting,” La-Iin said. “It reminded me of how I felt when Haner was flirting with Mama. Except I was wrong that time.”
“He seemed like such a nice boy before his secret came out. I bet the only reason he’s like that is because he was raised like that.”
“But maybe he doesn’t have the strength to change,” Shuu-Kena said.
“As long as he doesn’t kill you.” La-Iin said. “Otherwise I’ll have to make his death quick instead of a long drawn-out torture.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Today was so stressful….”

—–
Daal-Dan grit his teeth.
‘Stupid Azei. Stupid, stupid, stupid…! If only you weren’t a Skeletaltype I’d eat you!’
He threw a ball of paper at Azei’s head. Azei turned around, his expression one of shock.
“Dereni! Why, you’re normally so well-behaved! What brought that on!?”
“Er–it’s–nothing, ha ha,” Daal-Dan said. “Nothing at all, Mr. Yuanar…”

21.598.To See the Future–Part 6

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 598
“To See the Future–Part 6”

“Imagine what a person cooking in a stew must smell like!” Kyu-Aseri said.
“In the case of an Animated Pumpkin, that would most likely be like cooked pumpkins,” Kyu-Nhogo said.
“Oh, how uninteresting. But they’re an outlier, as are Vegemixes. The rest would be interesting enough to smell, I’m sure.”
“That will have to wait for now,” Hei-Yhunni told them. “In the meantime, perhaps you two can convince Ther-Aoughin to hunt down some of the “ancestors” of our species. I’m sure Vampire Bats and ferrets give off similar smells to Vampires and Ferreniaos…”
“Ferreniaos–and I’d assume ferrets as well–are stinky creatures,” Ther-Aoughin said. “But I’d be happy to see a little violence, especially since we’ve been staying a little down-low recently.”
“Ooh!” Kyu-Aseri cooed.
“It will be nothing like the meat from an actual person, though,” Kyu-Nhogo huffed.
Shuu-Kena sat at the table, listening to her family and feeling as though she wasn’t actually there. ‘My family is happier without me,’ she thought, ‘and I’m better off without them. So my idea of leaving them isn’t a bad one at all. It’s actually beneficial to us both.’
For a moment she felt as though someone would ask for her soon, but nobody did. ‘Wishful thinking. They don’t like me anymore. It should be easy to plan on leaving them in the future.’
She glanced at the faces of her siblings and that of her mother. ‘Why does it hurt to think of that future if I know it’s what’s best for all of us?’

***

“Watch as we, the Saras, take these lands of Bledger for our own!”
Hei-Yhunni’s voice rang out loud above the din of voices in opposition. In response, several voices threatened the opposing crowd.
“That’s right, fools. Finally, Bledger, Vaelyn is the home of the evil, enemy of the good! Say your prayers and leave now if you will, because this is your last chance!”
Nim-Ghini snapped his fingers. “And that was the moment.”
Rapid gunfire sounded, drowning out all other noises. No matter how hard Shuu-Kena tried to block it out, she could still hear it–the reality was behind her. But there was nothing she could do now, so she instead focused on running away. She had to survive, if not for herself, for her children and the last promise she had made to her husband.

“Mommy, is it true that Neigghed used to be a place full of evil?”
Shuu-Kena startled. She dropped the whole hemsquirt she was holding into the pot of soup. “You stupid idiot! Now you’ve gone and made Mommy cry!”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault!”
“Uh–uhm–i-it’s a part of history, so I don’t mind talking about it,” she chuckled. “A long time ago, even before I was born, they say that Neigghed used to be the evil hub of Vaelyn. Nowadays that’s Bledger, and maybe Plucehon soon. But it’s in the past, and we don’t need to worry about it now.”
“Really?”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Really. I promise. And even if we did, I would protect you.”
The memories of the past decade were vivid in Shuu-Kena’s mind. She could remember clearly her family’s rise to power. Under those circumstances they had shunned her; they made no effort to kill her, but they pretended she didn’t exist. It was a time of loss for her. She lost contact with La-Iin at around that time and her husband joined the masses of people in opposition to her family and their army.
While Shuu-Kena had no proof that her husband had perished at the moment she heard the gunfire, she saw no reason as to why she should consider him still alive. The memory of those two who had been so close to her was always painful. In their children she could still see his features, and could see the lack of his features in the one child she had adopted after arriving in Neigghed.
Her husband’s fate she could imagine–but what happened to La-Iin? Her friend had never voiced opposition nor support for her parents’ methods, at least not in recent years. It was one of her biggest questions. But it was all in the past. There was no way for her to know, and for now she needed to focus on her children.
“I think you made Mommy think about Dad again.”
“That’s your fault, not mine!”
“P–please, it’s nothing,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “Why don’t we do something else instead of focusing on this silly stuff? After dinner, who wants to paint with me?”
All the children rose their hands. Shuu-Kena smiled. “Let’s do that instead, alright?”

“Dinner tasted too much like hemsquirt. I’m not blaming you, Mommy, I’m blaming Var-Bougen.”
“You’re blaming me, but you were yelling right around the time she dropped it!”
“Don’t worry, Mommy. I like hemsquirt a lot, so I didn’t care that it tasted like that, unlike they do.”
“Please don’t fight,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “I don’t have the energy to deal with this…”
Shuu-Kena led her children to the ‘Painting Room’, a room she had designated for herself to paint in once she had found a house in Neigghed. She had decorated the room with all sorts of paintings she had made–and in recent years, paintings her children had made.
“I don’t really like painting much,” one of her children sighed.
“Do you want to do something else?”
“No, I’m fine. But when I grow up, I don’t think I want to be a painter like you, Mommy.”
“That’s fine.”
She set up small canvases for each of her children and for herself, and they set to work. Shuu-Kena had already decided to paint a happier painting than her normal ones, and so her progress was already going much faster than that of her children.
“Mommy, can I ask you something?”
“Arrgh, you made me mix my paint!”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Um, what did you want to ask, Ii-Ching?”
“You’ve told us stories about Daddy before, but I wanted to know if we had any other family. At school there’s this girl called Vampiris, and she’s always talking about having an amazing auntie. Do we have any aunties?”
“Or uncles? Uncles are cool too,” Var-Bougen said.
“Ah–uh…”
“Maybe Mommy doesn’t want to talk about this.”
“Aw, please, Mommy?”
Shuu-Kena bit her lip. ‘You knew this was going to come up eventually…’ “Not anymore. They’re not here anymore just like Daddy. So please don’t ask about them ever again.”
“H-huh?”
“I think we should probably leave Mommy alone for now. She looks kind of angry…”
Shuu-Kena was finding that her happy picture was soon ending up to be anything but–she was now painting red streaks onto the sky, and already that made it look much more malicious than her original intentions. She sighed. ‘I guess I’m just not any good at painting happy pictures…’
The painting was finished either way, and she waited for her children to finish before turning her canvas around.
“That’s scary!”
“Why do you always make sad pictures, Mommy?” Ii-Ching asked.
“This one isn’t sad. Even when the world’s messed up, people can pull through. That’s what it’s supposed to be. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be here today, if people weren’t capable of that.”
“I guess not.”
Her children turned their canvases around, and Shuu-Kena smiled. “You’re all getting a lot better. Hu-Ade, your painting is very unique.”
“Is that mean?” Hu-Ade asked.
“No, it’s a compliment. You use a nice range of colors.”
Hu-Ade smiled. “Thanks, Mommy.”
“What about mine, Mommy!?”
“Well, Ii-Ching, I think this part is a little–”
Before Shuu-Kena could finish, a loud siren wailed and drowned out her words. She could see that her children speaking, but couldn’t hear them over the siren. Concerned, she peeked out a window to see what was going on.
A large group of people were entering the neighborhood, many of them avians, though Shuu-Kena noticed a lot of Normals. What caught her sight immediately was their guns and the lack of any sort of authority gear. A shiver went up her spine at the sight.
Her children ran up behind her. Shuu-Kena pulled them close and kept an eye on the group, covering her face slightly with the curtains. ‘Maybe they’re an emergency group? Has something happened?’
While scanning the group to see if any other affiliation indicators were on them, she gasped. Near the front were two faces she remembered.
Ther-Aoughin and Kyu-Nhogo.
Shuu-Kena backed away from the window. Not long after, a gunshot fired through it and into a wall. Shuu-Kena beckoned to her children to follow her, and they took the back door out of the house. The siren was even louder outside, and mixed with the sound of gunfire. She wondered if she would be able to hear after the whole ordeal was over.
Shuu-Kena wasn’t sure of what to do. Evidently someone had seen her position already and was likely to come after her soon. Yet she couldn’t make her legs move, and the sound of the siren and the gunfire was too loud for her to discuss something with her children. They looked every bit as nervous as she felt, and she had to wonder if she would be able to get them moving.
‘How did they reach us here? Why would they come here?’ The answer was obvious to her: Neigghed’s peace would be their downfall. Shuu-Kena began to despair. ‘If they can take Bledger, and are on their way with Plucehon and Neigghed, where are we supposed to go?’
In the midst of her thoughts, she noticed Ii-Ching point at something. An army of people was heading their way, consisting of both grounded species and avians. Shuu-Kena pushed her children to run, but slowed herself when she noticed yet another familiar face.
La-Iin’s.
‘No…’
Shuu-Kena was in shock, but she knew what she had to do regardless. She continued running, keeping her children ahead of her, ignoring the army’s speed for her own sanity. But the avians obviously had the advantage, and the grounded species were not far behind: gunshots sounded behind her and avians closed in on her. At one point, when she nearly tripped, one descended upon her, and though Shuu-Kena kept her feet moving, she was already prepared for the worst.
She was carried into the air, her children grabbing on to her. Shuu-Kena tried to keep them off of her, but she was soon high above the ground. She knew what was the likely fate of her and her children, but she still couldn’t bear to be the cause of their death.
To Shuu-Kena’s surprise, however, she and her children weren’t shot or dropped. The avian carrying them landed, and it was then she caught sight of La-Iin’s face once more.
“La-Iin!”
“I should have known you’d come to live in Neigghed,” she said. Shuu-Kena flinched. Her friend’s tone sounded antagonistic.
“Um…”
“Before you ask any questions, yes, I did save you. So go off and go someplace else aside from Neigghed.”
“Aren’t you going to get in trouble!? It looked like you were working with my family!”
La-Iin scoffed. “I’m only looking for my own opening. But what I’m doing is too major to get you involved in. So run with those kids of yours and keep going. I wouldn’t let you get killed by that stupid group.”
La-Iin flew off before Shuu-Kena could say any more.
“Mommy? Who was that nice lady?”
Shuu-Kena stood up. “I’ll tell you later. For now, we have to keep running. Don’t worry, I have an idea of what we can do, but I can’t tell you anything until we’re safe. So just follow me.”
Her children looked uncertain, but they nodded and followed after her.

—–
‘La-Iin…’
Shuu-Kena stared at a painting she had made of her dear friend.
‘I wonder, if something like that really happened in the future, would you save me?’

3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18.564.Plans for the People

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.549.Rejoice in your Homeland

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 549
“Rejoice in your Homeland”

“Crimes have been happening on a larger scale than other years this year in Bledger. It’s coming to the point where reporting on every single one seems unnecessary. Of the more notable ones: several were injured on an attack on a health center near the edge of Bledger, while a Goathoof woman was found dead nearby a body of water. In more frightening news, after power suppressants failed on an inmate, a jailbreak occurred at a local Bledger prison where the somewhat-infamous Sara Nim-Ghini was being held after a recent misdemeanor. Police are searching for two other men who also made a successful jailbreak, an Animated Pumpkin named Uire Ben-Yuhgo and a Catori named…”
Gathered in the electronics room, the members of the Sara family listened intently to the news that day. Shuu-Kena spotted smiles on the faces of her sisters, brother and mother, who after word had broken that Nim-Ghini had made a successful jailbreak, had taken to listening to the news while they waited for his return.
“When Dad comes back, should we even bother staying at this house? The police know we live here already and if we raise a ruckus they’ll just take more evasive action against us.”
“Nonsense, Ther-Aoughin, the police believe we’re all goody-goodies save for your father. And even though one of us really doesn’t share the same spice for criminality that us others do, the rest of us are good enough at acting to pull it off. I’m particularly proud of Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo in regards to this, though you’re doing a fine job too, Ther-Aoughin.”
“Thanks.”
“It makes me want to vomit, acting like a goody-goody,” Kyu-Aseri sighed.
“The day the evil rule Bledger, we won’t have to worry about it anymore.”
The whole time as her family listened to the news, Shuu-Kena kept quiet, terrified of voicing her true thoughts. The idea of people such as her family ruling over Bledger sounded like a horrible idea, but the more days that passed and the more incidents of crime there were to report, the less hopeful she became that the future her family wanted was nothing more than a pipe dream.
‘No. There are plenty of people, even evil people, who wouldn’t want my family to be in power. Not even Cahongyun would want that.’
The thought of her dear friend from school brought a smile to her face.
“What’s this? Shuu-Kena smiling for once?” Kyu-Aseri said.
“Perhaps she’s coming over to the dark side, or is at least happy to see our pappy again.”
“Knowing Shuu-Kena, she’s thinking that maybe everything will be okay as opposed to anything hopeful like that,” Ther-Aoughin said. Shuu-Kena grimaced. “Her sudden change in expression just now leads me to believe that I’m right.”
“Um…”
“What is it, Shuu-Kena?” Her mother asked, her tone slightly accusatory.
“I know that you said we would probably be okay since the police think Dad’s the only actually evil one, but are you sure about that?”
“I’m certain. Besides, this is the best base of operations we’ve had yet. Losing this house would be a blow to our ultimate goal.”
“Mm…”
“All I’m concerned about is the potential of the police putting Dad away for longer than normal. I’m sure he could manage another jailbreak, but the more dangerous things are, the more that neutrals use force. It’s not really the goody-goodies we need to worry about in this situation when you think about it. They can be massive hypocrites but the majority of them just want things to work for the better. Meanwhile, if a neutral doesn’t want an evil person out on the streets, they start to use more force because it doesn’t matter to them as much if that person is harmed.”
“Certainly, neutrals can be more annoying,” Kyu-Aseri said.
“Though goody-goodies still have the worst temperament, by far,” Kyu-Nhogo said.
Shuu-Kena lowered her head and sighed. ‘It’s like they’re doing this all on purpose. Dad, come home already so they’ll stop picking fun at me…’
Her wish seemed to come true almost immediately, for the door opened and caught the attention of the rest of her family, who rushed downstairs to greet her father, who stood there battered and visibly injured in multiple areas but with a confident grin on his face.
“Dad!” Her siblings exclaimed.
“Hello, all! I thought I’d be out of commission until August, but what do you know: those incompetents gave Uire a lower dose of power suppressants and boy, that man can do a lot of damage when he sets his mind to it. He might be a useful asset if the police don’t find him and he doesn’t die.”
“We owe him nothing at all, dear,” her mother said. “We just want to know what the next course of action is. You’ve been having more trouble evading the police lately, after all.”
“I still need to contemplate that one, though I crippled some old lady on my way here. She was a lot more feisty than you’d expect for a Siren over one-hundred years old. I suppose I should count myself lucky she didn’t sing me to death, heh. But I do still need to come up with a plan, that and to be hidden inside the house. If the police come you’ll have to pretend as though you haven’t seen me. It’ll be problematic otherwise.”
“Do you really think we’d rat you out to the police, Dad?” Ther-Aoughin asked.
“No, I wasn’t concerned about that at all. In any event, what I want to do right now is celebrate. But not just my jailbreak. I want to celebrate success.”
“Success?” Shuu-Kena asked. She kept herself from finishing the rest of her question.
“Yes, success. Success in the fact that the evil of Bledger are permeating every part of it. Sooner or later the goody-goodies and neutrals of this part of Vaelyn will be wiped out. Intruders will be killed or turned away. Other evil people strive for world domination. It’s a worthy goal, but a lofty one. Nay, all I want to see in my lifetime is Bledger under total evil rule.”
“Much like Neigghed was,” Kyu-Nhogo said.
“Why did we get on Shuu-Kena’s case for going there, then? Because it would not teach her a lesson?” Kyu-Aseri asked.
“No, because the present state of Neigghed is a crock of shit.”
“That’s for certain!” Their father cackled. “Hei-Yhunni! I wish to celebrate this with as many deadly sins as I can manage. But the first of those is gluttony. I’m starving after running so many miles and what they serve at jail is unsubstantial.”
“Certainly.” Hei-Yhunni head off to the kitchen.
“Will you tell us more about your jailbreak, Dad?”
“Always pleased to. Come around me, children.” He beckoned to them. “What happened was, I did not share a cell with Uire. He was off in another cell with some Ferreniao woman who killed her children. Remorseful lady, her. A shame because I think she had some potential. Anyway, we were down for the night and trying to sleep when Uire found that his power suppressants had worn off. The fools had figured that a dosage after dinner would keep him going all throughout the night, but Uire is a large man in many ways. It would’ve taken a much stronger dosage for that. He broke the wall, broke nearby cells and many of us were able to escape. Most were caught, however, but I and my cellmate, some violent Catori fellow who was in a gang, made it out because of our close proximity. I couldn’t tell if that stupid Ferreniao woman had tried to escape. She was sitting there in horror when I bust through the hole.”
“Amazing,” Kyu-Aseri breathed.
“Going to jail might be worth it if for the possibility of a jailbreak,” Ther-Aoughin said. “It sounds amazing.”
“It was amazing. Even the run back to our house and the encounter with the Siren woman was. It was a rush of power, just a rush in general! And it’s certainly made me hungry so I’d hope that your mother hurries it up with dinner!”
“I am hurrying!” Hei-Yhunni snapped.
“Perhaps we should give some assistance,” Kyu-Aseri said.
“Yes, that’s for sure.”
“I’m going to go and listen to the news some more. I want to see if there’s any more hell being wreaked in Bledger.” Ther-Aoughin stood up and head for the electronics room. Only Shuu-Kena stayed behind, and she flinched when she realized she had been left alone with her father.
“Dad…”
“What is it, Shuu-Kena?”
“Don’t you ever think, well…maybe you should set your goals a bit lower? Like just this neighborhood? Isn’t Bledger a big stretch?”
“Shuu-Kena, maybe you don’t understand because you lack the fire that your siblings and I and your mother have. There is such a thing as striving too high, yes. I’m a Normal, so I won’t live as long as some of those other species. I have to make my plans carefully. But I want to strive for the highest thing that might be possible in my lifetime! If I stick to just this neighborhood, which mind you already has a fairly high evil population, first off it’s a small neighborhood and second off, what motivation is that for your brother and sisters? They will follow in my footsteps if they survive. They will be the ones who take my place and spread the domination further than Bledger. Total evil rule of all the world would be ideal, and I hope that the Saras achieve this someday. But for now, Bledger will do.”
“…”
“Don’t bog down your siblings, Shuu-Kena,” her father hissed. “We all get it, you don’t see things the same way as us. But if you turn on us and raise an opposition, none of us will hesitate to kill you.”
Shuu-Kena teared up. “Oh, stop that. Your siblings don’t do that.”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “…I’m going to go and paint. You can eat without me.”
Her father gave a huff and said nothing more. As she walked to the room she shared with her sisters, Shuu-Kena could hear her mother and sisters cooking cheerfully in the kitchen, and the sound of the radio as her brother listened to updates.
When Shuu-Kena retrieved her canvas, she set to work on painting the first thing that had come to mind. Anger and sadness gave her picture an emotion she hadn’t set out to make, but in the end, she was fine with the results.
‘My family will never change. My Dad said it best. If I do anything they don’t like, they’ll turn against me. I should create a new branch of the Sara family when I get older. One with me and my kids and we’ll go over and live in Neigghed. We won’t be like this part of the Sara family. All we’ll do is follow our dreams…’

—–
Mit-Sun sighed.
“Now what is it, Mama.”
“I’m just concerned. There was a jailbreak just yesterday, and some criminals made it out and haven’t been found yet. I don’t want to leave Bledger, but I keep wondering if we should. I don’t want anything to happen to us.”
“Don’t worry about it, Mama. I managed being in a druggy neighborhood for a day, so I know we’ll survive. Besides, I’ll show these other evil people that they should have something to be terrified of.”
“Yeah, like a mass murderer or a gangster is going to be scared of a little girl.”
“Oh, they will be…”
La-Iin felt a renewed determination. ‘Those fools don’t realize that this world belongs to me. Sooner or later they will, so enjoy your freedom for now!’

20.536.The Weekend School Trip–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 536
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 2”

“Why did you ask to room with me instead of Sanhuun, Cahongyun? Aren’t you two good friends?”
“We are.”
“I know you’re interested in my family, but there’s nothing I can tell you about them right now. Nothing really big, anyway. So why did you ask to room with me? I know the final choice wasn’t yours, but–”
“I was wondering about something.”
“Huh?”
“It’s nothing I can tell you, though. It’s just a little…experiment.”
“Er, okay. Well, I’m happy to room with you anyway, Cahongyun. You know, Neigghed is a lot nicer than my house. I kinda wish our school trip was a little longer than it is.”
“Well, I have to make it back home soon. I’m concerned about something.”
“What’s that?”
“That’s also nothing I can tell you.”
“Hm…well, I don’t really want to talk about my family and I can’t ask you much, but I’m not tired yet. Say, Cahongyun, you seem to really like Molshei.”
“I do.”
“Do you have a crush on Molshei?”
“…”
“Huh?”
“I don’t like saying that outright.”
“So you do?”
“What do you think?”
“Yes?”
“What do you like so much about Molshei?”
“If San-Kyung didn’t hate almost everyone I’d have you ask him yourself about how he is. But all I can say for now is that he’s exactly what I was missing.”
“Huh?”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it. Fer-Shi doesn’t either.”
“Um, okay…”
Shuu-Kena smiled. ‘This is nice. I wish this school trip would go on forever.’

“Aren’t you upset that Cahongyun is rooming with Sara, Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not really worried. We’ve been friends for a long time. If our friendship was so bad that I was worried about it because she has a new friend, we wouldn’t be friends at all because I have Shan-Zetsu. And I know La-Iin really doesn’t like him.”
“Are you jealous?”
Fer-Shi flinched. “…maybe a little. It’s just, I know I’m still a kid and all, but it feels like all the fun times I had with La-Iin happened both a long time ago and just recently. We used to spend a ton of time together. We’re best friends, and she would go to me when something was wrong. Now it feels like she’s keeping a lot of secrets from me and she seems to go to other people before she’ll go to me. She only just started liking Sara and it feels like they hang out all the time now.”
“That sounds like more than a little. But like you said, if your friendship was a bad one, it probably would have already ended. If you two have been friends for a long time in a friendship between good and evil, I think it may last. But she might want to turn to people who understand her values better.”
“I understand her values!”
“Maybe not enough? I don’t really know, Fer-Shi, I just wanted to try and help…”
“I know you did. And maybe that’s what I needed to hear. Maybe I haven’t been hearing her out enough. Of course she might turn to people who understand her better if I’m not even lending her an ear.”
“Perhaps.”
“I’ll just have to keep trying, then.”
“A friendship takes the effort of both people part of it, after all.”

“Geez, I can’t believe our door was unlocked. I blame you.”
“Absolve yourself of any responsibility, huh.”
“No, it’s not that. Still, I both can’t believe that those two opened the door and I’m not surprised that they did.”
“I’m not surprised at all. Last year La-Iin broke in. Although that one was worse–she opened the door with sheer force.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “No wonder you’re so interested in her abilities. She is pretty powerful for a seven-year-old.”
“…”
“Oh, sorry, San-Kyung, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, I’m fine. I’ve been feeling a little bit better lately. Just wish using La-Iin’s power wasn’t a crapshoot.”
“I’m sure there’s some other way we can find out how to help you. I’ll keep looking, okay?”
“You say that, but I know you’ve been preoccupied with your own things.”
“…those aren’t all that important. And anyway why are we talking about depressing things on the school trip!? We should be talking about better things! In Neigghed did you know there are a lot of free things to do? You and I haven’t been going out much lately. Tomorrow we have more free time–we should take a chance to cast out on our own and have some fun!”
“Yeah, but we’ll need to make sure we aren’t caught by La-Iin or else she’ll tag along.”
“She’s been pretty preoccupied with that little girl who joined our class in March. Maybe she’s annoyed with us right now. After all, that speech she gave us…”
“She was hanging onto me on the bus.”
“Good point. Either way, I guess there’s time to plan for all this later. I’m starting to get tired!”
“Same here.” San-Kyung yawned. “Good night, Dosa-Mina…”
“Good night, San-Kyung.”

***

“Alright students, who’s ready for the day? We’re going to get something to eat, and then we’re going to study history. After that, you’re allowed on your own–although if you’re under fourteen, you need to be accompanied by someone older.”
“What!?” Airy-Aekok exclaimed. “You, like, gotta be kidding me! I’m gonna be fourteen this year! I’ve gotta be accompanied ’cause I’m a little too young?”
“You have me if you need anyone, Llanni.” Lirako said.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m still pissed off!”
“Sorry, but it’s the rules,” Theasis said. “Not just set by us, but set by Neigghed as well.”
“How does that make any sense!?”
“How are you feeling today?” Shuera-Kaizima asked Ai-Reia.
“F…fine, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Thank you…both of you. You don’t need to be so worried. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve just been…stressed lately, that’s all.”
“That’s alright. We’re on your side, Vampiris. We’re here for you.”
Ai-Reia had to take a deep breath to keep herself from tearing up. “B-b-by the way, you two, I don’t mind if you call me Ai-Reia.”
“Really? That would be lots easier for me!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Hey, are you three paying attention?” Mr. Chensu asked. “Anyway, first things first. We’re heading out to eat!”

Breakfast for the Class D students and teachers had been somewhat cumbersome; the number of people going to the small restaurant overwhelmed the workers and Mr. Chensu had panicked at how much vuyong the entire meal had cost. Still, after the meal the group was in mostly high spirits as they ventured to other historical locations within Neigghed.
“This building right here used to be a place where the bodies of the dead were stored. In early Neigghed, burials were uncommon. They prefered to store and preserve the bodies for various reasons–trophies, food, threats….their methods of preservation are methods other places in the world adopted for preserving bodies prior to funerals. Nowadays it’s a small hospital for treating minor wounds.”
“How much longer is this going to take?” San-Kyung whispered.
“I don’t know, why do you ask? I find all of this interesting.”
“I do too, but I’m getting sick of hearing his voice.”
“Mr. Molshei, shut up! I’m trying to give a lesson.”
“…great. I just made it worse.”
“Mr. Chensu is always annoying, San-Kyung,” La-Iin whispered. San-Kyung flinched and crashed into Dosa-Mina. “What do you say we cast out on our own?”
“No!”
“A-hem.” Mr. Chensu narrowed his eyes. “Anyway, we’ll be letting you all go off on your own soon enough. But before we do, there’s one last place we think you students should see.”
The teachers led the way to a more rural part of Neigghed that to La-Iin, looked as though it had been abandoned; the ground was dotted with bare patches and tall grass. Up ahead in the distance, a large statue stood.
“This is the statue of the dictator who ruled over Neigghed like a certain family rules North Vaelyn. As you can see, it’s since been defaced in more ways than one. Here you can see that not all the population of Neigghed is forgiving and pacifistic. Some have written some violent and profane graffiti on here….like “dick-tator”. Ha ha. Very funny.”
“Did you just laugh, San-Kyung?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Oh, he totally laughed.
“You shut up!”
“Anyway, let’s head back before you all go off. Heading off in different directions in the middle of nowhere is a recipe for disaster.”
The students followed the teachers back to the hotel. San-Kyung glanced over his shoulder one last time at the statue and stifled a giggle.

“Now we finally have the freedom to go off on our own!”
“A freedom we usually have?”
“Yeah, but we haven’t had it in Neigghed yet! Come on, let’s go!”
Dosa-Mina led the way as the two looked at the small buildings in Neigghed. San-Kyung was intrigued, but only mildly. Neigghed had several places to visit, but it was swarming with all sorts of people wishing each other well. It seemed like a stereotypical utopia–and it made him sick.
“Hello there!” One called out. “Would you like to visit one of our facilities? We have ones perfect for a couple like you! Don’t worry–we’re very accepting here!”
“What the hell?”
“You’ve got the wrong idea,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Oh? Our apologies! Well, there are plenty of places for anyone to go! You’re welcome to go anyplace you like!”
“Calm down, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina whispered. “This is just them being polite. They’re known for being kind here.”
“Well, it makes me sick!”
“Wow, look at San-Kyung. Can’t even take a little politeness without getting all worked up.”
“Yeah, kinda cute though, isn’t it?”
“Llanni, are you high?”
San-Kyung sighed. “Let’s just keep going.”
Dosa-Mina glanced around Neigghed. It reminded him of a peaceful village. “This place is like the opposite of Hledshess. I like the way it’s set up, though.”
“Dosa-Mina, you’re more interested in this place than I am. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know. There are a lot of places around here, but a lot of them seem like eateries and I am not hungry in the slightest.”
“Eateries aren’t the only type of place around here, you know.”
San-Kyung groaned. La-Iin was sitting on a bench nearby, Fer-Shi at her side. “San-Kyung, it’s wonderful to see you!”
“Have you been stalking us?”
“Actually, this is complete coincidence,” La-Iin said confidently. “But I’m happy to see you regardless. Rival-boy is completely useless when it comes to finding fun places in Neigghed–meanwhile, I and Fer-Shi have found quite a few.”
“There are a lot of fun places if you know where to look. Did you know you’re in the eatery district right now?”
“That would explain all the eateries,” Dosa-Mina mused. “What kind of good locations have you found?”
“Don’t humor her!”
“I’m just asking for the general direction.”
“If you don’t want to be anywhere near me, it was a mistake to ask, rival-boy,” La-Iin said. “I’ll only show you if you accompany me and Fer-Shi to that place!”
“If you want to find another district, just take a left or right at the beginning of the eatery district. The first eatery is called Smoothie Sandwiches!”
“Smoothie Sandwiches?” Dosa-Mina began to look nauseous. “Er, why don’t we go now, San-Kyung?”
“Sure.” The two took off, and as soon as they did, La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi by the collar of her shirt.
“Why would you tell them that!? This was my perfect chance!”
“That’s exactly why I told them! Can’t we just have fun on our own!?”
“A school trip is the perfect opportunity for rival-boy to make his move. He and San-Kyung are in the same room! The only thing that made me feel good last night was the fact that my and Sara’s room was next-door to theirs. I didn’t hear anything but who’s to say there isn’t a makeout district!?”
“You’re over-blowing this, La-Iin. You seemed so calm yesterday, so what’s got you all riled up today?”
“I’M ANGRY AT MAMA!” She yelled. “Come on, Fer-Shi! If we chase after them, we might be able to catch up to them!”
“Hey, wait!” La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi’s hand and, propelling herself faster with her wings, chased after the faint outlines of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina in the distance.

“This place is a lot of fun, don’t you think, Ai-Reia? Everyone is so nice here in Neigghed!”
“It is a nice break from all the bustle of Bledger,” she said.
“Bledger doesn’t bustle all that much. Though I guess I can understand how it can seem that way sometimes.”
“Mm.” Ai-Reia lowered her head. “Why do you two even want to spend time with me? I’m a young child and you two are adolescents. I don’t understand.”
“You’re our friend, Ai-Reia. And like I said, Cahongyun and Morushei are friends and they have an even wider age gap!”
“And please try not to worry about the lifespan factor. We don’t want to make you upset by being your friend–we want to make this time better. But I think I need to ask this. Would it make you happier if I stopped trying to be your friend now, or if you had lots of fond memories of me when I’m gone?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“In-Dei, you shouldn’t change the conversation to that,” Shuera-Kaizima scolded. “We are here to have fun.”
“You’re right,” he said. “And that’s just what we’ll do. Don’t worry about it, Ai-Reia. Right now we’re here to have fun with you!”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Thank you, you two.”
Slowly but surely the kindness the two showed her was starting to make her feel just a slight bit better. It felt to her like the happiness that was buried by her constant self-reminders of their lifespans was starting to slowly peek its way out, and it pushed away her memories of her recent breakdown as she chased after the two.
“I think she’s gaining on us!”
Ai-Reia stopped in place when she noticed San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina run by. They quickly outpaced even Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, who were still running ahead until they noticed the two. They were followed not long after by La-Iin and Fer-Shi, who were running almost as fast.
“What’s going on?” Shuera-Kaizima asked.
“I don’t know,” Ai-Reia sighed. “And I’m certain I don’t want to.”

***

“You students sure look like you’ve had a lot of fun,” Mr. Chensu said that night at dinner.
“If by fun you mean getting chased down and harassed by a little girl…!”
“Calm yourself, San-Kyung.”
“Well, we leave for home tomorrow, so anything else you might want to do in Neigghed you’ll have to do early. We leave a little bit before twelve.”
“What would be the point in doing anything at all?” La-Iin asked.
“I dunno, just for fun?”
“Well, anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the trip. And I hope it made you feel a little bit less stressed. Bledger might be a more dangerous place to live than Neigghed right now, but maybe the morals we’ve learned here will help you feel a little bit better about the future. …unless you’re one of our evil students.”
La-Iin and San-Kyung looked away.
“Hey, teach, can I room with Fer-Shi tonight?”
Mr. Chensu blinked. “But aren’t you rooming with Miss Sara, Miss Cahongyun?”
“I am.”
“Why the sudden change of heart?”
“No particular reason.”
“I’m fine if she changes rooms,” Shuu-Kena said. “We actually somewhat talked about it already.”
“Well, if you say so…”

“Did you really talk to Sara about rooming with me tonight?”
“Sort of.”
“What changed your mind?”
“Nothing in particular.”
Fer-Shi growled. “You never tell me anything!”
“I’m not telling you because if I told you, you would just get mad.”
“Now I really want to know.”
“Oh, come on,” La-Iin sighed. She laid down and pulled the covers over her. “If you feel bad about me hanging out with Sara more, don’t. Stop being so jealous.”
“Is that why you’re rooming with me tonight?”
“What do you think?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “I don’t know what to think. But, um…thanks, La-Iin.”

“Say, San-Kyung, would you say this school trip was a success?”
“In what way?”
“Did it help make you feel a little bit better about living?”
San-Kyung tried to push away the memories of being chased down by La-Iin as he thought back on the trip.
“…yeah, I guess so. But not for the reason the Neiggheds would want.”

As Ai-Reia settled down that night, she felt content.
‘I really do have friends who will stick by my side, don’t I?’

—–
On the way back to Bledger, most of the students had fallen asleep. The ones who had not still seemed exhausted.
“You know, this was a pretty fun school trip. I’m glad the Principal reminded us.”
“Me too. I hope next year’s is fun as well.”
“Next year’s?”
“Yes. It happens every time there’s a Grade 12 student, right? Don’t you remember? Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular, Mr. Ferister and Mr. Yuuldang are in Grade 12 next year. And the year after that, Mr. Elyshen and Miss Fheyundaer. And after that, Mr. Fyuori, Mr. Pinyon and Miss Llanni. And so on until the year Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna graduate, and that’s not counting any new students who join. And even then, just a year later Miss Sanhuun, Mr. Gyurkang and Mr. Veiner would be in Grade 12.”
Mr. Chensu’s eyes widened. “Aren’t Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna in Grade 6!?”
Theasis nodded. Mr. Chensu nearly fainted in response.

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 535
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 1”

“I thank you all for taking the time out of your day to come for this discussion.”
“Not a problem. I don’t really do much outside of school.” Mr. Chensu said.
“What did you need from us?” Asked Theasis.
“Mr. Sharai, loathsome as he can act sometimes, has been informing me of recent tensions within Class D. Tensions between students who do not get along and students who have grown suspicious of another due to her recent actions. He also mentioned something else to me that I want to talk with you all about.
“Each year that there is at least one student in Grade 12, the class with the students will go on a school trip. That is a rule here at Malicerie that is often enforced and the trip can happen at most any time in the year. In Class D I noticed there are three students who have reached Grade 12–Miss Sanyaow, Miss Sherry, and Miss Hangdul. Given the tensions and the fact of this rule, I wanted to suggest that you of Class D go on a school trip to alleviate these tensions and to fulfill the rule.”
“That does sound pretty nice,” Mr. Chensu said. “Things have been weird in Class D lately.”
“As nice as an idea as it sounds, where do you think we could go, Principal? And when would we go?”
“It would probably be best to go this month or as soon as school starts again. School trips aren’t intended for the students to all have some random fun–they are supposed to learn on these trips as well, and I don’t know that many students would appreciate that during their Summer break.”
“Well, it sounds kind of cumbersome in September,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “And you mentioned part of the reason it sounded like a good idea to you now is because of the student tensions. By September they could have blown over.”
“That’s true, but then that doesn’t leave us with much time to plan a location and head off for it. We’d have to do it before July, and we’re already a decent way into June.”
The Principal’s gaze fell on all the teachers. “Then let me propose this idea. If you have no ideas, then why not visit Neigghed? It has been referred to as one of the more peaceful places in Vaelyn, and it has a history to it as well, one that’s much more violent than one might expect given their recent history all has to do with peace. It could be something for the students to learn about, and give all of you a chance to head off to someplace more peaceful.”
“Neigghed, huh? I’ve never been there, but I heard my cousin lives there,” Mr. Chensu said.
“When would we go, Principal?”
“Why must you turn to me for every decision? Am I just going to plan this entire school trip? Fine then. Head off to Neigghed on June 19th and return on June 21st. Make sure to relax and learn. And tell the students soon enough, otherwise you’ll be forcing them into a sudden school trip.”
“We’ll make sure to tell them, Principal.”
“Are you sure this is a smart idea?” Denbek asked. “This is all pretty sudden–even if we inform the students they could still be caught off-guard. And part of this dips into their Weekend.”
“I was asked to provide a schedule, and I did. Besides, it wouldn’t be the only time they’ve done school work on the Weekend, and they will have a trip to go along with it. They don’t have to go in the end. Work with what I gave you. If you have a better idea then discuss it among yourselves. But this is what I give you for now.” The Principal stood up. “I’m heading home. You all debate the matter among yourselves.”
The Principal stepped out of the room, leaving the Class D teachers to themselves.
“What do you all think?” Theasis asked.
“I think it sounds like a fine idea. We’ll tell the students and go when she said. After all, if we head home early enough they’ll still have some of their Sunday. Maybe we can even give them Monday off.”
“It still sounds so sudden,” sighed Denbek.
“Well, Neigghed isn’t too big a place. There’s a lot of history on it but there isn’t much to learn aside from that. The students would have plenty of time especially if we do the brunt of our teaching on Friday. Then on Saturday all of us could have some fun!” Haebochi said.
“That sounds like a plan,” Hyungdarou said.
“Mr. Denbek, are you still having concerns?” Theasis asked.
“Yes, but that’s all about the suddenness. You all practically give me no reason to say no–all the rest of it does sound pretty appealing. I’ve kind of been wanting a vacation myself.”
“Then it’s settled. We’re going with the Principal’s plan, and next week we are going to Neigghed!”

***

“This school trip really happened fast!” Fer-Shi said. “It feels like one day we were being told we’re going on a school trip, and then the next day we’re going on that school trip!”
“Yeah, Mama didn’t like it much that it happened so randomly,” La-Iin said. “I have one problem with the school trip, myself.”
“What’s that?”
“I want to be away from Mama right now, but I don’t trust her to be on her own!”
Fer-Shi looked confused. “What?”
“You would never understand the evil that is Haner, and I wouldn’t want you to.”
“If Haner is evil, shouldn’t you like it?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Haner is that fake brand of evil that even we evil people despise. Except for idiots like the Saras, probably.”
La-Iin glanced behind her. Shuu-Kena was glancing around the crowd of students and parents. La-Iin walked up to her.
“Sara?”
“Eep! Y-yes, Cahongyun?”
“They didn’t come, did they.”
“No,” she sighed. “They said they didn’t want to encourage this venture. I told them about how they said it was also to get away from the bad in Bledger, and then they told me they’re trying to cause bad in Bledger and that it’s stupid for me to want to go. But then they said they don’t care…I really wonder if they even love me sometimes, La-Iin.”
La-Iin felt conflicted. A part of her wanted to reassure Shuu-Kena, but the other part told her to hold back from it.
“Your family is stupid. Did you tell them we’re going to Neigghed?”
“Yeah, that just made them more angry.”
“Mama told me that Neigghed has a long and violent history,” La-Iin said proudly. “So they’re stupid. Don’t worry about it.”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Okay, I’ll try not to.”
“I think this school trip will be good for you, sweetie,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Maybe.”
“Personally, I’m looking forward to it!” Dosa-Mina said. “Think about it, San-Kyung. It’s a chance to get away from this place where all the things that are on our mind happened. And last year’s school trip was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“I think this trip will be a lot of fun, Mr. and Mrs. Molshei. We might even come back changed men!”
“I sure hope you’re right, Dosa-Mina,” Salsh-Era said. “But I think your little comment upset Del-Kyuus.”
“Ohh, I know San-Kyung isn’t going to be a minor forever, but it’s hard to imagine him becoming a man,” she sighed.
“He’s gotta graduate school before he can graduate to adulthood, so don’t worry!”
“I guess you really are excited about this school trip.”
“Sure I am! I love school trips.”
“Well, have fun, you two!” Salsh-Era said.
“We will!”
“We’ll try.”
“Hm…”
“Somethin’ up, Sanyaow?”
“I’m just thinking about our little deal, that’s all. We still haven’t found out what’s going on. We started up some suspicion but we still don’t know for ourselves what’s the truth. July isn’t too far off–would we even be able to figure out the truth while we’re not at school?”
“Like, I’m concerned about that too, but don’t let it worry you,” Airy-Aekok said. “We’re going on a school trip not to worry about this? Bledger’s been getting more dangerous, and my Dad’s super-busy ’cause of it. I’d rather just have fun.”
“I guess you’re right. I do kinda need to cut loose. Between this and college plans I’ve just been stressing myself out!” She stretched. “Hey, Deki-Tyunri, want to sit next to me on the ride there?”
“Really? You’re asking me? I thought you were going to ask Llanni.”
“I’d rather find a cute teenage boy to sit next to,” she cooed.
“You know, that’s one thing you two have in common–your love of teenage boys.”
“I–”
“Weird that someone like me isn’t as interested as you two.”
“You’re becoming a woman, Lirako. You have, like, a more mature taste.”
“Can we just stop this conversation…?”
As Rini-Futo head off, leaving her family behind her, she caught sight of Mr. Chensu standing there in the crowd with the rest of the Class D teachers.
“Mr. Chensu!”
The teachers stared at her for a short while before all of them except for Mr. Chensu took a step backwards.
“What is it, Miss Shaejaein?”
“Um….even though I said what I did earlier this year…do you think we could have fun on this trip like we did last year?”
“Oh? Sure! There’s a lot of history to learn in Neigghed, so that’s still possible.” He furrowed his brow. “You do actually like history, right?”
“Mm-hm!”
“Then it won’t be a problem.”
Rini-Futo breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ai-Reia, they gave you a choice,” Reuf-Bu said. “Do you want to go on this school trip, or do you think you need to stay home and recover more? I’m worried about you after what happened.”
“…I’m not sure,” she said quietly.
“You need to make your decision soon. The other students are getting onto the bus.”
“…”
“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up and caught sight of Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei.
“Are you coming on the school trip, too?”
“…I don’t know.”
“We’d love to spend time with you in Neigghed,” Im-Dei said. “But if you need to stay home and recover, you should do that instead.”
Ai-Reia felt conflicted, but only for a moment. She had two choices–recover at home and be surrounded by the people who caused her so much stress, or go off with her friends and perhaps alleviate some of it. The thought that La-Iin would also be on the trip bothered her, but she felt as though ultimately, this was the right choice.
She reached out to her friends. “I want to go…”
Shuera-Kaizima grinned. “Good! We’re happy to have you!”
“All students of Class D! We’re heading off to Neigghed in a few minutes! If you aren’t ready for some reason, hurry it up or you’ll miss the bus!”
“We have to go,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Brother Vampiris, thank you for bringing her.”
“Not a problem. Call if anything goes wrong, alright, Ai-Reia?”
“I will.”
The students head onto the bus and took their seats, followed by the teachers. With a majority of their parents watching, the bus took off. Glancing out the window, La-Iin gasped.
“What’s wrong, La-Iin?”
“Did I just see Dami? But I didn’t see him in the crowd before!”
“Maybe you just mistook him for someone else,” Fer-Shi said. “I think Ai-Reia came on the trip. Maybe it’s her dad?”
“No, I would never mistake anyone else’s Dami for my Dami. I either hallucinated him or he’s actually there!”
She glanced out the window once again. “I sure hope I hallucinated him.”

La-Iin’s concern didn’t take long for her to lose.
“San-Kyung, a trip is just what you needed, I think.”
“My parents said so too.”
“Wow, she’s obviously flirting with you and you’re just sitting there and taking it.”
“I don’t have the energy to fight right now. Trust me, she’ll get her payback.”
“You’re saying that right in front of me,” La-Iin said, cuddling up close to San-Kyung. “Well, if you don’t have the energy to fight, I should take my chances while you don’t. Be my boyfriend, San-Kyung. We’ll be so–”
“No.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Not having the energy to fight doesn’t make me gullible.”
“Well, if you can still fight back with words, I know one way you can’t fight back!”
“I’ll strike my hand if you try anything, so don’t.”
“If you do that you’ll cause a panic on the whole bus!” La-Iin blinked. “Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun. Do your worst!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“Well, at least this is entertaining,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Maybe to you!”
“We’re about to arrive in Neigghed, students,” Theasis called out. “Once we arrive we’re going to take a look at the history of Neigghed. Today is a day fully devoted to studying, so I hope you all are ready!”
“Well, at least it’s not science study,” Xhen-Bei sighed.
“Do you have trouble with science, Yuuldang?” Kim-Koou asked.
“Yeah, it’s not my strong suit.”
“It seems like a lot of our classmates like science,” Mi-Kou said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not one of them.”
The bus came to a stop, and the students prepared for the day ahead of them. Dosa-Mina tapped Theasis on the back.
“How’s the room situation going to work this year, Miss Theasis?”
“I’m not sure yet. That depends on how this hotel is set up. I’m sure if it’s two to a room you’ll want to room with Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular. You two are pretty close, aren’t you?”
“Yup. We’re inseparable.”
“That’s good. It’s nice to see such a healthy friendship…for the most part. Mr. Dslellular, I can’t claim to know the more intimate details about your friendship, but please, it’s embarrassing the way you act in public.”
“Sorry about that. But I just can’t resist a chance to shower him in affection!”
“Hm.” Theasis turned around and met face-to-face with Hyungdarou.
“Two to a room.”
“Looks like you’re in luck, Mr. Dslellular.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. He walked off and joined the rest of the students.
“What a sweet boy. I think he has to be one of my favorite students.”
“You really shouldn’t play favorites, Miss Hyungdarou…”

***

“Neigghed, Vaelyn. A pinnacle of peace–this place is full of good people. Neutral people and evil people are definite minorities here.”
“I’m so happy Class A isn’t here,” La-Iin said. Fer-Shi gave her a quizzical look.
“Thing is, about Neigghed, that wasn’t always the way things were. Long ago, before Vaelyn was even really Vaelyn, Neigghed was ruled by a dictator. Many of you, having studied Vaelyn’s history, will know that Vaelyn’s primary species changed several times over the years. Places like Nyappon were consistent Catori societies, for instance, but in Vaelyn which species reigned in dominance changed. All around the place soon to be called Vaelyn there were dictators who wanted complete rule over these lands. Neigghed’s dictator, a Minomix called Ghurheng, was known for being notoriously violent and for ordering the deaths of his enemies over their capture. In the event he did order for their capture…well, it’s said they were tortured in ways the populace had no idea about.”
La-Iin soaked in every word. She was enamored.
“This nature of Neigghed didn’t stop when Vaelyn became Vaelyn, either. You see, Neigghed is a bit closer to Aena than other places in Vaelyn. So Aena wanted to take this land for themselves, and there were some bloody battles fought over it. When Neigghed became Neigghed, this is where the evil of Vaelyn converged. There are a few tales of violent crimes going on here–they say the evil of other parts of Vaelyn would take their soon-to-be victims out to Neigghed to kill them and hide the body. They say some of those cases still haven’t been solved.”
“Scary…” Fer-Shi mumbled.
“Even other evil people were scared of Neigghed because they knew that it was easy to get killed here. The culmination of Neigghed happened sometime after the Vaelyn War. People from Vaelyn who sympathized with the rulers of North Vaelyn essentially made Neigghed a copy of it–for a place like Vaelyn, this was a big deal. People in Neigghed were miserable. Once the extent of the situation got out, it was dealt with and it ended in the death of the man who was ruling over Neigghed.”
“Hm…”
“Intrigued, San-Kyung?”
“Neigghed after that basically was populated by newcomers and people who had lived under that man’s rule. They decided they would make up for the darkness in Neigghed’s past by making it a place of peace and goodness–don’t give me that look, Mr. Molshei. Anyway, to the surprise of the people in Neigghed, their attempts to make this place a peaceful one succeeded greatly. After all, now barely anybody thinks of Neigghed as the dark place it was before–now it’s truly lauded as a place of peace.”
“And boringness,” La-Iin sighed.
“You were right, Cahongyun. If only my family knew about Neigghed’s past.”
“Now, there are a few historical sights we can see in Neigghed, but who feels like stopping for something to eat?”
“I do!” Xhen-Bei called out. “I’m starving!”
Mr. Chensu chuckled. “Then’s let go get something to eat!”

***

After dinner that night, Class D saw a few sights including the grave of the man who ruled over Neigghed years before. They retired to the hotel after that, where the students debated over rooming.
“Of course I’m rooming with San-Kyung. Who else would I go with?”
“We know, Mr. Dslellular,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “Well, we want to try and put together combinations of people who will get along. So I suppose Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun would be good together.”
“What about me?” Shuu-Kena asked.
“Miss Sara, why don’t you room with Mr. Veiner?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Fer-Shi whispered to La-Iin. “They might be able to get along.”
“I wonder…”
“Did you want to room with Sara, La-Iin?”
“Hm…I’d actually want to room with San-Kyung, but…”
La-Iin glanced at Shuu-Kena, who looked dejected as the rooms were doled out, with most ending up in pairs of friends such as Yefu-Shenhao and Zae-Mia.
“Hey, I’ve got an objection.”
“What’s that, Miss Sanyaow?”
“I think some of us would be better off in pairs of three,” she said. “It’d take up less rooms and besides, I kind of want to room with both Deki-Tyunri and Llanni.”
“That might be cool,” Airy-Aekok said.
“It would save on space, but we did say two to a room.”
“I think it is a great idea,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Then I can be with In-Dei and Vampiris.”
Ai-Reia remained silent, while Im-Dei smiled.
“Well, if you all are insisting…but does that end in consistent pairs? We kind of wanted to avoid anyone getting left with a teacher.”
“Why don’t we just stick with two to a room? We have twenty-four students; it should be even that way. Besides, I don’t want to room with anyone aside from San-Kyung.”
“Mr. Dslellular does have a point. Perhaps we should just assign rooms ourselves. After all, I do know a lot about who you all are friends with.”
“Then I want to make a request. I want to room with Sara instead.”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. “What? Aren’t you friends with Sanhuun?”
“I am. But I have my reasons for doing this.”
“And I can room with Veiner, I guess…” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Now this is strange…”
“Well, I’m fine just rooming with Deki-Tyunri, but Llanni isn’t exactly what I’d call popular. And same goes for Deki-Tyunri if I room with Llanni.”
“I don’t want to leave Vampiris alone,” Im-Dei said.
Mi-Kou sighed. “This is so frustrating…”
A chatter rose among the students about the situation of the rooms.
“EVERYONE SHUT UP!” Mr. Chensu yelled. “Look, while we’ll put your suggestions into consideration, we’re just pairing you with whoever we feel like, alright!? Except for you two. You two are staying paired up.”
“As it should be!” Dosa-Mina said.
“We’ll get back to you in a few minutes.” The teachers walked off and began to discuss the rooms.
“I hope I end up with you or Veiner,” Fer-Shi said.
“…”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. ‘I guess she really does like Sara, now…’

—–
Although it took longer than expected for all parties involved, the rooms were eventually decided, and students head off to bed and began to chat.
“Yo, Llanni,” Lirako said, peeking her head into her and Mi-Kou’s room. “There’s something I wanna do.”
“You two really shouldn’t be leaving the room at this time,” Mi-Kou said.
“I’ll be, like, back soon. Then you can tell me a bit more about that boy.”
Mi-Kou sighed. “It isn’t anything big, Llanni.”
“Aw, come on. I’m always interested in teenage boys! Now, what are we getting up to?”
“Most of the doors are going to be locked soon. Some already are. But I think San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina’s isn’t. Maybe we’ll catch Dosa-Mina in a different form if we open the door!”
“Are you so sure about that?”
“Maybe they’ll be talking about his true species?”
“Guess it’s worth a shot. Alright, let’s do it!”
Lirako opened the door and pushed her way into the room. The two stared blankly at the sight of San-Kyung, who looked both agitated and embarrassed, being almost smothered by Dosa-Mina, who was smiling wide.
The two turned in the direction of Lirako and Airy-Aekok, who closed the door and silently went back to their own rooms.