12.528.The Days of Makeshire–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 528
“The Days of Makeshire–Part 3”

La-Iin opened the door cautiously and quietly, and closed it just the same.
‘It’s just the end of Makeshire’s story. I heard all about his success and a lot about his plays. I know more things now, and what I really want to know I’ll never know. Today has to be the day I conduct my blood tests, it has to! Of course Mama would never understand that, so…’
She tip-toed through the house, hiding and trying to keep her breathing, footsteps and occasional wing-flaps as quiet as possible. Once she made it to the kitchen, she immediately noticed Mit-Sun sitting there, the book open to a late page. Cautiously she began to sneak through the kitchen, thus far going unnoticed by Mit-Sun.
But this time, someone else noticed her.
Choungetsu began to bark happily and ran up to her, wagging his tail and pressing against her. “Damn it, Choungetsu!”
“La-Iin? What are you doing under the table?”
La-Iin stood next to Mit-Sun. “Mama, I like Makeshire. I really do. But this is the end of the book. He’s an old man who’s almost dead. I want to do something else! Don’t make me listen to your droll reading another day!”
“Droll?” Mit-Sun questioned. “Come on, La-Iin. Look at how few pages there are! You’ll definitely have time to do whatever it is you want to do.” She narrowed her eyes. “And if it’s nefarious I don’t want you doing it in the first place.”
“You’ll never stop me! And I don’t believe you! You took too long two days in a row! There’s a definite trend here, Mama.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Let’s just finish it, alright?”
Choungetsu whimpered. La-Iin glared at her, then shook her head. “Fine, but Mama, if I don’t have any time to do what I want, there’ll be hell to pay!”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes further. “Well, at least you’re listening, for once. Aaaaanyway, as you said, this is near the end of Makeshire’s life. He had his big burst of success, he’s still popular, but the man is an elderly Vampire, and his prime is long past, though still more present than some other notable people…”

***

Centuries had passed since the beginning of Makeshire’s career, even moreso since the beginning of his delve into stage plays. His parents, as well as his siblings Nillion and Aletta, had been dead for so many years living without them felt normal now. And Makeshire had written several plays which had been produced several times and translated into many different languages.
He had lived through nearly all of the 1000s, and soon the 2000s would begin. Still he went to showings of his plays. He could remember much from his career, both good and bad–and even today he was still working, writing what he suspected would be his final play: The Angels and a Conundrum.
The play had been inspired by thoughts of his siblings Nillion and Aletta, and the two main characters shared many personality traits with them. Even after so many years he could still remember clearly Nillion’s strict yet fair behavior, the kindness he had shown him when he was having trouble making his way in the world. He could remember Aletta’s gentleness–his sister had continued working and making treats for him even as she deteriorated in health. Thinking on Aletta was particularly painful–she had never even known that he had begun to write stage plays in the first place.
Still, Makeshire was determined to see through his final work. And he had already written a dedication to his family as the first page. ‘Writing has certainly improved over these years,’ he thought. ‘Before I was stuck using just paper, but now I can use a typewriter, and computers are on the horizon…’
Makeshire was happy for his success. He was happy that he was able to spend so much time doing what he loved, to the point he could make a living off of it. But he was done. He was ready to join his siblings and be nothing more than part of the world’s history.

“Mr. Makeshire? Is it true that The Angels and a Conundrum is going to be your last play?”
“Yes, it is true,” Makeshire sighed. “I’m an old Vampire. Even with the means of writing having improved–and not a moment too soon, those hand cramps of the past were a pain! But I am an old Vampire. It’s time the young people of the world took the helm from me and made their own stage plays that everyone will remember.”
“Nobody can make the kind of stage plays you do, Mr. Makeshire. You have a talent no other will share.”
“True. But so do those young people. And if I were to write a stage play that is similar to one of theirs, they would be accused of copying me when in truth neither of us would be copying, most likely. And I am not as well-inclined with the new happenings of the world as I was with the old. You must realize I have outlived much of my family. Vampires do not often do so by such a large margin of centuries.”
“I suppose I understand in a way, Mr. Makeshire. It has been a long career.”
“Indeed. But, I do not regret a single moment of it.” Makeshire smiled. “I know this is what I was meant to do–this was my purpose in life. I contributed to the world. I will be considered a part of history. And even moreso I have made people happy. I never expected this sort of outcome when I was a young man. I’ve done what I love for so many years. But death no longer scares me. I’m ready to embrace it whenever it comes. But be it tomorrow or in fifty years, this shall most likely be my last play. So I do hope you all enjoy it.”
“I’m sure all of us are hoping that as well, Mr. Makeshire. Thank you for the hundreds of years of plays. We hope that the rest of your life is filled with peace and relaxation.”
“I do too. I’d hate to be witness to the fifth World War when I don’t have the means to fight.”
“We’re looking forward to your last play.”
Makeshire gave another smile. This time, he said nothing further.

The seasons of that year passed. Halloween came and went, and Animated Pumpkins everywhere celebrated. Makeshire visited Manemica during Thanksgiving. Christmas came and went and Makeshire was showered with gifts. The Angels and a Conundrum opened to wildly positive reviews, with some saying it was Makeshire’s saddest play but also one of his best.
Makeshire completely retreated from the public eye after that. Many more people wondered about him after his last play, but Makeshire opted to spend his days in silence and peace, reading the works of others and his older plays. He felt lonely. All these years he had spent his time writing plays, watching as he garnered fame–and all of it had helped to bury the sadness he felt.
He missed his parents. He missed his siblings. He missed his niece and nephew. He longed for the simpler days of his youth. He was ready to die. But passing the time reading the various writings of the world and of his own wasn’t too bad.
‘Soon enough, my family, I will join you.’
His career had been an exciting one. He had never expected it to happen.
A few days into the new year, Makeshire checked into the hospital. The doctors warned him that if he wasn’t cautious, he could easily die–his organs had grown fragile over the years and could shut down at any moment. They warned him to come by if anything at all felt strange.
He was glad he had gotten to write all that he did. He wished Nillion and Aletta could have read the works and come to the showings. They would have had such fun, and would have been so proud. He could imagine Aletta, a kindly mother raising her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and further on. He could imagine Nillion, a successful businessman. They should have been able to pursue their goals as well. It wasn’t fair.
Makeshire was dismissed from the hospital, though he could tell the nurses were still concerned about him. They gave him medication. Makeshire put it on a shelf someplace in his house and forgot about it immediately after arriving home. Not two days later, one of the nurses called him and asked how he was doing, and if he wanted to be moved to senior care.
All those people he had touched over the years, many of them were gone too. Perhaps he would have more confidence, be more social when he met them in the afterlife. He had always wondered if writing so many plays had made him a bit of a recluse.
Pain wracked his body to the point where he couldn’t stand. It was laboring to breathe, and even an involuntary twitch felt like agony.
He hoped that even after he was gone, his plays still made people happy.
Makeshire opened his eyes. The pain was subsiding. At the edges of his vision, he felt he could see Nillion and Aletta. They looked at him with smiles, the perfect picture of health. They seemed all dressed up for a fancy event, and Makeshire wondered where they might be going.
“I think he can see us,” Nillion said to Aletta. “Hello, Makeshire.”
“Would you like to come to a special showing of your play? We helped direct it!” Aletta said cheerfully.
“My children will be there as well,” Nillion said. “It’ll be like a family reunion. Come on. Let’s go.”
“You helped with one of my plays?” Makeshire rasped. His siblings nodded. Makeshire smiled.
“Certainly. I’d love to go…”
Makeshire closed his eyes, yet the vision of Nillion and Aletta did not seem to disappear. No matter how much darkness flooded his vision, they were always standing right there at the corner of his vision, reaching out their hands and waiting for him to join them.

Not more than ten hours later, the headlines sent shock through several people around the world.
FAMOUS PLAYWRIGHT MAKESHIRE FOUND DEAD INSIDE HOME

—–
“And that’s the end of the book.” Mit-Sun slammed it shut. “…La-Iin, are you crying?”
“…”
“It was a big surprise when Makeshire died. I didn’t know much about him, but seeing those headlines was so weird…”
La-Iin shook her head. She checked the time.
“Mama, you took too long. Again.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Is that why you’re upset? Because you didn’t get to do what you wanted to? It’s earlier than yesterday! You have more time!”
La-Iin ignored her. She was lost in thought.
‘Now I know why Dami wanted to get that thing. It all makes sense now. And now I know for sure. I need San-Kyung at my side.’
Hearing of Makeshire’s death had made her sad, but she had known the man was dead since she first saw a Makeshire play. The thought of being found like him, dead alone inside her house, was unbearable.
She was even more determined than before to finish her blood tests as soon as possible.

1.517.Rapid Deterioration

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 517
“Rapid Deterioration”

Ever since the day he had read the paper which told him his goal as it was right now was impossible, the subject had not left San-Kyung’s mind for even one day. He might be able to avoid it for a short while, but it would always come back to haunt him, the reality that the goal he had been striving for was either impossible or could only be obtained by a method he had no idea existed.
The first few days had been horrible. He felt as if he lacked the energy for anything, and he knew how ridiculous it was. He had lived fifteen years of life in this way, his true form only ever arriving on Halloween, and now he was living out his sixteenth. But along the way he had built up a hope, and now thinking back on that the sight of his current form staring back at him in the mirror made him wince.
When Dosa-Mina had taken him to Hledshess, he had for the first time since that day felt even slightly better, but it wasn’t a permanent solution. Every day since then he had forced himself to use his powers until he felt over-exerted, because the feeling was much better than being reminded of what every single November for the rest of his life would be like.
He was sure his behavior was concerning his parents, and knew for certain it was concerning Dosa-Mina, but he could barely find it in him to care.
“San-Kyung, are you sure you’re alright? You’ve barely been drinking anything lately.”
“I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound fine,” Del-Kyuus said. “Please, San-Kyung. If there’s anything we can do to help, we want to help you! So please, let us, alright?”
“The only way you could have helped me was if you had waited to conceive me until I would have been born in October.” He couldn’t muster the will to snap at his parents, but the expressions they made might as well have been in reaction to him doing such a thing. “But you either didn’t know or didn’t care.”
“San-Kyung, I…we’re sorry,” Del-Kyuus said. “We really wanted a child. But we had no way of knowing you’d turn out like this. For all we knew, you could have loved being Aesthetically Normal. There’s no real way to know that sort of thing.”
“As if it isn’t common sense for Animated Pumpkins to have their children in October…” San-Kyung stood up from his seat. “I’m not going to fight with you two, but my problem isn’t something you could help with unless you went back in time.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus gave each other concerned glances, but San-Kyung didn’t notice. It was another day he had to force himself to go to school, and it was every bit as disheartening as the other days he needed to do so.

***

As soon as school had ended, San-Kyung took his leave and head off, ahead of Dosa-Mina, towards Hledshess. Already his hands itched with the urge to use one of his powers. He scratched lightly at his palms almost the entire way there.
He checked behind himself to make sure Dosa-Mina wasn’t following him. His earlier curiosity returned as he thought back on Dosa-Mina’s strange demeanor earlier that day. He had seemed somewhat distracted and disoriented, as if something had been weighing on his mind. San-Kyung was curious to ask about it, but kept himself from doing so. It wasn’t a given that Dosa-Mina would tell him what it was, anyway.
Hledshess seemed as a ghost town as it normally did, so San-Kyung started off raising vines from the ground. Already he felt soothed watching them rise and tangle into creative shapes.
‘But it’s always this same thing.’ The vines began to tangle into knots, San-Kyung’s hands balling into fists. ‘My powers are too limited to be of much use for long. Even if I took over the world, I’d need some sort of supplement. To cover for November. To cover for my lacking powers. And what else do I have to do in life if I can’t destroy this world? Absolutely nothing. Living for me has been entirely pointless.’
Tears welled in his eyes and blurred his vision. ‘Damn it, I wish I could die!’ The memory of his pact with Dosa-Mina chased away thoughts of ending himself early, but it didn’t send away the feeling. He was filled with self-loathing and a sense of worthlessness, and too lost in those emotions he noticed not that he was tangling his vines, nor the people who were starting to approach him from behind.
“We’ve got you!” One exclaimed as he held San-Kyung’s hands behind his back. San-Kyung struggled against his grip. “So, thought you could go on terrorizing Hledshess, huh? Well, you’ve got another thing coming! We of Hledshess aren’t going to back down any longer. We aren’t the weaklings we once were. And you’re all on your own.”
People began to surround him, and at once he realized the weight of the situation he was currently in. His face was mostly visible, and he was surrounded by a crowd consisting of a large portion of non-Normals, his hands held behind his back. These people had a renewed determination, and they looked ready either to fight him or to report him to police. Whether Hledshess’ police force or Bledger’s in general, it was a terrifying idea to have to face them.
For that moment he put aside his self-loathing and struck his hands in a desperate attempt to flee from the crowd. The man holding his wrists let go, but the crowd was in hot pursuit. He kept his hands lit as he built vine walls to try and keep them from reaching him, but again it all reminded him of just how limited his powers were. He could only keep going the way he was for a short while longer.
Already residents of Hledshess were breaking through his vine shields. They tore at them and lunged for him. He fired off seed bombs, but aside from a momentary startle, it didn’t faze the crowd. Nothing he could do would dissuade them now–and even if he managed to escape, they likely had his face by now. He would be reported to police, and it would all be over. Stuck in a jail cell along with strangers he didn’t know nor cared about, earning the pity of his parents…
It was all too much for him to take. He struck a deep wound into his left palm and outstretched it towards the crowd. A flamethrower burst forth and engulfed the crowd as far as he could see, along with the vines that still stood around them. Immediately after he pulled off the action, San-Kyung ran away, head past the small lake in the forest near Hledshess, and checked his hand wound. It was bleeding profusely, so he covered it in water to try and clean it off.
It was all over for him now. What could the future hold for someone like him? As he continued to clean the injury, the tears welled in his eyes once again and blurred over his vision.
It was truly pathetic, the state he was in now. In the past, he felt he would have been able to deal with the pain of the truth and move past it. But now he wasn’t sure what path he was on, and he felt as though he had made some sort of grave mistake, coming to Hledshess.
He wasn’t happy anymore. He constantly reminded himself of his parents and Dosa-Mina as incentive to try and move past this point he was at. And at one point during these thoughts, even La-Iin crossed his mind.

—–
“San-Kyung, how did you get injured like this?”
“I was practicing my powers,” he said dryly. “That one can injure you, you should know that. All the fire powers injure you.”
“You shouldn’t use that so recklessly, San-Kyung,” Salsh-Era scolded. “That should be for emergencies only. Your normal fire power works just fine and doesn’t hurt you this much for anything you might need fire for.”
“It’s the most powerful thing I can use right now. Of course I want to use this.”
“Is this the same hand you injured last year in the Malicerie incident? I suppose you at least didn’t pull off most of your palm this time, but I agree with your father. Don’t be so reckless with that flamethrower.” Del-Kyuus stared San-Kyung in the eyes. “Really, San-Kyung, are you alright? You’ve seemed so depressed lately. I’m worried about you. Please, tell us if there’s anything going on.”
“We know how you are already. If it has to do with that, you know we won’t judge you. We’ll hear you out, so please don’t suffer like this alone. If you don’t want to talk with us, at least talk to Dosa-Mina.”
San-Kyung remained silent as Del-Kyuus finished patching up his hand, and stayed that way as he head off to his room. Staring at his night desk, after a few moments of deliberation he opted to call Dosa-Mina.
“Hello, this is Dosa-Mina, and I know that’s you, San-Kyung. What’s going on?”
“I…” For a moment, San-Kyung contemplated letting out all his problems to Dosa-Mina right then and there, but he quickly reminded himself that Dosa-Mina not only had his own problems, but he doubted he would appreciate being told that his best friend wanted to die far earlier than they had planned.
Just as usual, there was no other option for him.
“Er…”
“Yes?”
“Just…wanted to say hello,” he said.
“Are you alright, San-Kyung? You sound more drained than you have these past few days. Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine. A-anything going on with you?”
Just as earlier, San-Kyung felt completely and utterly pathetic, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it now. No matter how hard he tried or how much he resisted it, this sadness was likely to stay, and he would have to figure out how to live with it.
If he could stay that way for much longer.

12.497.Striving for Normalcy

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 497
“Striving for Normalcy”

“I’m…going to school, family,” Ai-Reia called.
“Have a good day,” her mother said.
“Be safe,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Don’t do anything dangerous,” her father said. Ai-Reia glared.
“I won’t, Father,” she scoffed. “Not like you’d believe that. You always choose to believe the worst in me.”
Her family gave each other concerned glances as she head out the door, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts.
‘Now it’s back to the way it was. The family that has absolutely zero trust in me. Why do I even bother? I have no support from anybody. I am a token to the world, a burden on my family, the target of my enemy. I have no usefulness save for the novelty of being one of the youngest child prodigies. And if Ca-Miela takes that from me as well, nobody will care about my novelty. Nobody loves me genuinely.’
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima came to mind. ‘But they aren’t what I need. I need friends who will live by my side, not die before my hundreth year and live on as memories. I don’t need that pain, and if they knew my inner thoughts, they wouldn’t want the burden of dealing with me either. I have nobody to support me. And the person out there who might…’
Her eyes began to tear up. She dabbed at her eyes. ‘They probably live in Dasdoria. In which case I truly have nobody else…’

***

“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up from her notebook. “Yes, Kokohara? Did you need something?”
“Mn. I wanted a rittle….er, little, bit of help with this puroblem…problem. Excuse me.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Your Vaelis has improved in one year far more than I thought it would. To be honest, I thought you’d still be calling me Vanpurisu into 2015!”
Shuera-Kaizima smiled, though Ai-Reia noticed the insides of her ears turn red. “Th-thank you, Vampiris. You and In-Dei always compliment me so much…my family too.”
“Your improvement is amazing! The compliments are well deserved.”
“You’re the amazing one. You’re so smart and you’re only seven, and you’re a Pureblood Vampire too. It really is amazing.”
“Please, Kokohara. My status as a child prodigy has nothing to do with my school life, so let’s leave it aside, alright?”
“O-okay. I understand. I just think it’s really cool.”
“Thank you, Kokohara. But in truth, there’s a part of me now that wishes that I wasn’t a child prodigy. I sort of wish I was still in diapers, being taken care of by my parents instead of being out here, at school. If things had been that way I would never have had to deal with La-Iin.”
Ai-Reia startled. “But that’s just a musing! I don’t mean to bother you with my problems, Kokohara. I’m sorry I even brought them up.”
“You talked with me and In-Dei before in the past. I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to talk to me about things again, and I think In-Dei would feel similarly.”
“No, it’s nothing, really! And just like I’d like to leave behind my child prodigy status, I’d also like to leave behind my problems when I’m at school. So if there’s nothing else you want, you should get back to your seat. Math class will likely start soon.”
Shuera-Kaizima’s ears folded to her head. “O…alright, if you say so…” Looking dejected, she walked back to her seat.
‘Kokohara might be hurt right now, but it’s for her own good. Or maybe, it’s just for my own good. How I wish I were normal. Why can’t I be a seven-year-old of a shorter-lived species? Why can’t I be a normal seven-year-old Vampire? If I could be one of those, I would never have learned of this kind of pain. But that isn’t the case. I’m not lucky like any of my fellow students. Instead, I have to deal with all this pain.’
Just before the teacher arrived, tears rolled down her cheeks. Once Theasis made it into the classroom, she bowed her head so her tears wouldn’t show.

When class came to an end, Ai-Reia felt thoroughly miserable. Nothing she could think of made her happy–no idea, no thought. When she remembered that she no longer had the privacy of her notebook to write down her sadness, it worsened significantly.
‘Worthless. Everything I’m doing is worthless. There is no payoff. Without the acceptance of another person I will go nowhere. I have no goal that I’m dead-set on achieving, save for destroying La-Iin. And there’s no guarantee I can do that. Perhaps I should provoke her so that she takes me out herself. Then I can get two things out of the way–my pain and La-Iin…’
“Vampiris!”
Ai-Reia looked up. The voice was Im-Dei’s, though it sounded strange in the midst of puberty. “Hello, Fyuori. Was there something you needed?”
“Yes, something both of us needed,” Shuera-Kaizima said. She peeked her head out from behind Im-Dei. “We want to talk to you about something.”
“Is there a subject you’re having trouble with?” She asked. “I may know a lot, but I’m certain you’re smarter than I am, Fyuori.”
“I don’t know about that,” Im-Dei said, nervously wringing his hands. “Um, why don’t we talk about this away from the crowds? The Weekend classrooms are empty today, aren’t they?”
“Yes?” ‘I wonder what these two want. Perhaps they want me to help them with a subject they’re struggling with? No, I doubt it. And they’re not cheaters, either. So what could it be?’
She snapped herself out of those thoughts as Shuera-Kaizima closed the door behind them.
“What did you want me for?”
“Just to talk,” Im-Dei said. “Go ahead and sit down, Vampiris.”
“I’m fine standing. What did you want?”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima glanced at each other, as if they were unsure of who should speak next. “This was my idea, Vampiris. After talking to you earlier, I thought you needed a helpful ear to listen to what you had to say.”
“We know there’s always your parents, but we wanted to help. After all, you’re our friend!”
Ai-Reia’s mind drew a blank, though only for a moment. ‘Friend. They called me their friend. But they don’t know what they’re getting into. No, maybe they do. This is a ploy. It’s the natural interest people have within them to learn about the problems of their peers. They want to know for their own curiosity. And then when they know, they’ll turn me away–as everyone else has.’
“N-no.”
“Would you rather talk to your parents?” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“We’re not trying to pressure you, Ai-Reia! But we want to be there for you.”
“No, it isn’t that I’d rather talk to my parents…I’d rather not talk to those traitors at all today if I can manage it…it has nothing to do with that.”
“Traitors?” Shuera-Kaizima questioned.
“What’s wrong, Vampiris?”
“We aren’t friends, not by a long shot. You two are a teenager and an almost-teenager. There’s no business you should have with me. I’m not your peer.”
“So what?” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Aren’t Cahongyun and Moru…Molshei friends, and they’re seven and…sixteen, right?”
“I think Molshei had his birthday already.”
“You don’t understand. It’s not just that.” Ai-Reia bit her lip. “We Vampires don’t have any business befriending those who will die so long before we do. And that is what you two will do. You will die on me before my hundreth year and be nothing but a distant memory for most of my life. Had I been a little older, or another species, it would be another thing, but the point stands that that’s not the way things have gone, so I have no business befriending you two.”
Both Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima fell silent. ‘Now they’ve finally realized their mistake. They’ll never want to talk to me again. But now it’s certain. I truly have nobody else in this world.’
“I know the lifespan thing might be making you upset, but what’s wrong with being friends anyway despite all that?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said!? If we became friends now, I wouldn’t have you two for most of my life!”
“Sometimes that happens,” Im-Dei said. “There are people out there who had great friends in school, who they loved spending time with and had fantastic memories of, but they don’t talk to each other now. And the students in Class D should show you that lifespan doesn’t get in the way of friendship. Even putting aside Cahongyun and Molshei, remember Xhephe…Xhephekuda? He’s a Groundiser and he was friends with Yuuldang.”
“It’s in the opinion of other people whether they want to expose themselves to that pain or not,” Ai-Reia said, looking away from the duo. “I don’t.”
“Well, even if you don’t want to be friends, we can still lend you an ear,” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“And if you ever change your mind, we’ll still be here…well, until we graduate,” Im-Dei said.
‘All the people who care about me in this world are people who will die on me.’ Ai-Reia was once again reminded of that thought, but only moments later she found she could completely ignore it. She walked over to the both of them and reached out her arms, and they returned the gesture with a hug.
‘Oh, screw the stupid lifespan for now. Just knowing that Kokohara and Fyuori care is more than I could ask for…’

—–
“It’s pretty late,” Im-Dei said, looking up at the sky. “I guess we spent longer talking than I thought.”
“But if it helped you any, it wasn’t a waste of time!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Um…yes.”
“If you ever need to talk more, we’re still here. You just need to make sure to catch us at a good time.”
Ai-Reia nodded.
“Are you going to be okay, Vampiris?”
“More than okay, actually,” she said with a smile. “That hug was incredibly appreciated, thank you two. And I’m sorry if I upset you. The lifespan friendship deal is just something I see as common sense. But I’m grateful for you two, really I am. You two are some of the only people I feel I can truly rely on.”
Shuera-Kaizima opened her mouth, but quickly shut it. “Well, whenever you need to talk again, just come to us.”
“I…might, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Kokohara, Fyuori.”
“See you tomorrow!” They called.
Ai-Reia walked off of Malicerie grounds with a skip in her step. ‘I need to stop getting so happy. I’m only setting myself up for tragedy.’ Yet despite those thoughts, she couldn’t contain that happiness.

29.484.The Child Warlock–Part 7

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 484
“The Child Warlock–Part 7”

Sale-Dessu had believed his life was difficult in the days after his mother had died. At the point he was at now, thinking back on that made him want to slap his past self in the face.
His Apeta had never returned, and though he scoured the area as thoroughly as possible, he could find no sign of her. And staying in the area much longer hadn’t been feasible–the people there knew he was her grandson now and held the same grudge against him.
Before he left the area, he searched for any signs from the people who hated him that might clue him in as to where his Apeta had gone. But he found no signs, and had since come to the conclusion that she was most likely dead.
More than a year had passed since that day she left him and he didn’t feel that his life had gotten any better. He tried to keep her words in mind, tried to think positively and look towards the future, but never having a permanent place to stay and always having time to think by himself got to him. No matter how much time he had to think for himself, he could never formulate a plan for his future. Instead he always found himself either becoming frustrated or giving into despair at the reality that lay in front of him: the two women he had spent most of his life with were dead.
“Hello there, sir. Staying another night at our hotel?”
Sale-Dessu only nodded in response.
“Alright then. I hope you have a good night here!”
‘If she only knew,’ he thought as he stumbled off towards his hotel room. He unpacked his spellbooks and study materials and stared at them blankly.
Now that he had lost his mother and grandmother, and had no way of contacting the rest of his family, this was all he had. It was all that brought him any feeling other than despair.
‘What should I make today…I should treat myself. I’ve been managing my funds better lately. Maybe I should have something sweet. No, Apeta would say it would rot my teeth. I need something healthier, like a salad…’
He got to work on a tissue, focusing on changing it into a salad. He felt a massive strain on his body, but the tissue eventually changed shape. He cautiously started to eat it, checking to see if it still tasted like tissue. Once he found it didn’t, he nearly scarfed down the rest of it.
‘I need a plan,’ he thought after finishing the salad. ‘Something, some plan. I can’t keep going on like this. But what choice do I have? I have no experience with this sort of situation.’
He had tried to think on what he might do with his future, but all he had really decided on was to keep on practicing his powers. When it came to where he might live and what he might do, he was at a loss. He was so adjusted to living life with other people he could barely imagine it any other way, yet at the same time the idea of living with anyone who was not his mother or grandmother made him feel immensely uncomfortable.
‘Maybe I could find a way to make myself a house. My powers are strong. I might be able to do it. But where would I go from there?’
He thought back on his Apeta’s recollections of her power studies. ‘Without anyone else to bother me, I have all the time in the world to study. I can really devote my life to my powers. Their potential is endless, so it wouldn’t be a boring life. I’d always be learning something new, always following my dream, without ever having to worry about how someone close to me might feel….but where would I go? How far away can I manage before people stop recognizing me as Astineth Eir-Tyuj’s grandson?’
His thoughts always went in the same direction, and he came to his usual conclusion that thinking on this was pointless for the night. He packed away his supplies and laid down in bed, instead trying to think over what he might want to try power-wise tomorrow instead of what he might do with his future.
Just as he had begun to drift off, the hotel door opened, and he glanced at the door to see who it was.
“Apeta…?”
“No, I’m not your Apeta. Just a concerned stranger.” Sale-Dessu blinked. Once his eyesight had steadied, he recognized the girl as the one who always greeted him when he came to this hotel. Even though he had seen her many times before, he still found himself shying away.
“Aw, don’t be scared, I won’t harm you. I just wanted to talk. I see you coming by here a lot and I worry about what’s going on in your life. Are you okay? Why do you keep coming to this hotel? You look awfully young. Are you just young-looking or are you an adolescent?”
“I’m okay,” he mumbled. “Please leave me alone.”
“I’m not trying to scare you, sir. I just want to make sure you’re okay. I know I can’t expect you to tell a complete stranger about what’s going on in your life, but I can’t help but worry. You always look so upset.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t respond. He was utterly confused as to why the woman would even bother talking to him, but he didn’t have it in him to ask her to leave again.
“Look, maybe things aren’t as bad in your life as I think. Maybe you just like this hotel and you naturally look sad. But if things aren’t alright, then try to make them better to the best of your ability, okay? Fulfill yourself, give yourself a purpose. Don’t just live because you have to, live because you want to, that sort of thing. And if you’re in need of a house, remember: we live close by Bledger, Vaelyn, one of the cheapest places to live in Vaelyn. If you work hard you could probably afford to live there.”
He peeked at the woman, who was now smiling. “I can’t claim to know what’s going on in your life. I just want you to know that there are people out there who will care if you let them. People who will help you. And there’s always something worth it in the world. So if you’re stuck at a point in life where you’re wondering whether or not there’s anything to look forward to, remember this–there always is. And anyway, our species is full of endless possibilities. There’s always something new waiting out there for you, so don’t let the bad in life get you down, okay? Sorry to bother you. Have a good night!”
Sale-Dessu didn’t uncover his head until he heard the woman close the door. ‘What was that all about? Why did she even bother coming in here to talk? Do I look that upset?’
Still, he found himself mulling over some of what she said, particularly the bit about the cost of living in Bledger. ‘Vaelyn is close, but far away. And it’s not a Witch and Warlock society, it’s a mixed one, isn’t it? That could be beneficial.’
Perhaps the woman’s intrusion and words hadn’t exactly reached him, but they had given him the idea he was searching for.
‘I’ll live far away from this place, and make a new life for myself. A life where nobody has to care about me and I don’t have to care about anyone else. I can study my powers all day and night and never have to worry about a thing. Because there, nobody will care that I’m the grandson of Astineth Eir-Tyuj. It won’t matter at all. Because nobody will care about me.’
To him it sounded like the most ideal future, especially after the past year and having to deal with the people who saw him as only his Apeta’s grandson. He could put his painful past behind him and focus only on finding out the true extent of his powers.
Satisfied for now, Sale-Dessu fell back into sleep, this time without an interruption.

—–
The part of his life where he had to fend for himself at the end of his childhood barely ever came back to him nowadays, but whenever it did he tried to push the thoughts away. Something about that period of time bothered him to relive, and he wasn’t sure quite what it was. All he knew was that he wanted to ignore the memories until they went away.
“Father, is something wrong? You look disturbed.”
“It’s nothing, Eul-Bok. I was just thinking on a…peculiar spell.”
“Are you sure? A lot of times you’ve told me you weren’t exactly being truthful when you say things like that. I’m always willing to listen to you, Father, so you can go ahead and tell me what’s on your mind.”
“Trust me when I say it’s nothing, Eul-Bok. Let’s just get back to work instead of overthinking things, alright?”
“Um, okay…”
‘Back then I was so sure I could make it without anyone else in my life. I thought that since I had adjusted to losing those important to me, I could survive on my own with only my powers. I wonder what I would have thought back then if I told myself that I would be more lonely trying to manage that way. Something tells me I would have believed myself no matter how skewed my reasoning was back then…”
“Father? You’re making that face again.”
Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Sorry about that, Eul-Bok. It’s just nagging at me.”
Sale-Dessu could tell by the look on Eul-Bok’s face that he didn’t believe what he had told him, but after that point he didn’t bring it up any longer–though it was evident that it was as much on his mind as that point of his past was on Sale-Dessu’s.

4.428.Children for a Cause

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 428
“Children for a Cause”

“La-Iin? Did you say you wanted to have kids someday once?”
La-Iin blinked at Fer-Shi. “Where is this coming from?”
“Oh, I was talking to my Mom and Dad about families. They asked me what kind of family I might want in the future. I think I have a pretty hard time imagining what my future might be like, but I thought it might be nice to be a Mom. You seem to have an easy time imagining your future, so I wanted to know…I could have sworn you said something about it before.”
“…”
“What’s with that look?”
“I thought you knew the answer to that already.”
“Hm, well, I guess I should. After all, it is pretty obvious you want to have kids with San-Kyung.”
La-Iin hissed. “Alright, I’m kidding!”
“I am going to have children in the future,” she said. “It’s only natural to want to continue on the bloodline. Who knows if there’s anyone aside from me to do it? …well, I guess there’s Ei-Tio, but I plan on making a family of evil royalty to reign dominion over the world for all the years to come.”
“What if you had good kids?”
“Does everyone want to ask me this?” She scoffed. “No matter. I’m sure there are ways I could convince my children to become evil while they’re still young.”
“It might not work,” she said. “After all, Miss Cahongyun is good, and you’re evil.”
“It would work with me. I know how to convince children better than Mama. …besides, she betrayed me when I found out Dami existed.”
“Um…”
“I’ve actually planned for children for a long time now,” she said. “I have names for them and everything. And everyone thinks when I daydream it’s all about ruling the world and Sa-Kyung, but it also has to deal with my children, too. I know things could always end up going not the way I expected, so I intend to plan for as many scenarios as possible just in case. And yes, that includes having goody-goody children.”
“I see….well, would you still have kids even if you couldn’t have them with San-Kyung?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Even if San-Kyung somehow died or didn’t join my side, there would still be ways I could impregnate myself with his children, I’m sure.”
Fer-Shi shuddered. La-Iin looked almost crazed to her. “Well, whatever you say…”
“I have a lot of good reasons for wanting children aside from the bloodline and San-Kyung,” she said. “The more evil companions I have by my side, the better. I think my family has too many goody-goodies in it. Mama is a little evil but she considers herself good. Dami and all my grandparents are too. Ei-Tio’s still little, but her parents seem so goody-goody I think she might be doomed….maybe I should try and see her again soon. I might be able to change her.” La-Iin grinned. “She seems like she would be an innocent type of evil. Those types are easy to manipulate. If only you were like that…”
“I’ll stick by your side, La-Iin, but I’ll stick by your side still being good,” Fer-Shi said dryly.
“I expect nothing less…although that can be frustrating sometimes. Anyway, I want more than one child, so I’m certain one of them will end up evil. Or at least, maybe neutral. Then I might still be able to convince them to do evil things, and maybe eventually they would come over to the dark side completely.”
Fer-Shi glanced at La-Iin’s face. As she talked about her plans, something had struck Fer-Shi and she found herself so curious that she had to ask.
“Is part of this also because of your lifespan?”
La-Iin gave Fer-Shi another wide-eyed look.
“Well, I was just thinking, they’d probably outlive you…”
La-Iin glared and turned away from Fer-Shi. “So what if it is? Who am I going to have in the future? You’re going to die, Mama’s going to die, Choungetsu’s going to die, even San-Kyung is going to die. Dami will probably die before me too. Always point out the obvious, why don’t you.”
“Sorry…I was just curious.”
“I don’t think I can take having just Bes-Isa all that time, even if she is evil,” La-Iin said. “She can be annoying sometimes.”
“Well, I know about that part of your relationship…”
“…actually, I was thinking about that recently.”
“Thinking about what?”
“Will you promise not to tell anyone else that I told you this? I’m trusting you with a really personal detail that I’d only ever want to tell maybe San-Kyung or Bes-Isa if I felt like it.”
“I promise.”
“You know how sometimes because someone tells you you shouldn’t do something, you do it anyway?”
“Yeah?”
“…I know I shouldn’t get so attached to people who are just going to die someday. I probably should have just made friends with Vampires and Groundisers and Vampire-Groundisers and half-Vampires and half-Groundisers and….you get the point. I’d be better off if San-Kyung and I were the same species, or if he was an Animated Pumpkin-Vampire or something like that. I know it probably was a mistake, and I’ve known I’m going to live a long time ever since I was littler than I am now. I couldn’t change Mama, but…”
La-Iin’s expression was a sad one as she continued on. “I’ve gotten too attached to the people I care about when I know I shouldn’t have. Somebody smart told me once I shouldn’t let love make me weak. And yet I did. If I have my children, I have to focus on them and they’ll live a long time. I don’t even know if I believe in ghosts or anything like that, so it’s not like I even have that to think about…”
“La-Iin…”
“Living long has its benefits. I’ll be able to rule the world for so many years that the world would probably never recover. It would be broken beyond all repair and not even a world full of goody-goodies could probably change that. But I just go and think about the downsides that shouldn’t even be downsides to me. I want to rule the world. I should be prepared to turn against so many people. And yet I’m not.”
La-Iin sighed. “…I didn’t mean to say all that. Try and forget it, Fer-Shi.”
“How can you just ask me to forget something like that?” Fer-Shi asked. “I know you’ve been having trouble with the idea of living long for a lot of your life. I can’t even imagine how you can think so far ahead that you’re hundreds of years old. I bet lots of people do, well, maybe except for people living in societies where they’re all the same long-lived species…but even those people might break away and meet more people.”
La-Iin glanced up at her.
“Even if you’re evil, you can still have emotions. I think there’s probably nobody in the world who can’t love people at all, well, maybe a few…but there’s not many. It makes me sad to think that you’re going to have to live all that long, especially since you’re planning to rule the world and even if you have kids, that might get lonely if they don’t want to help…”
“I’d prefer if you try and forget all I said,” La-Iin said. “Even if you tell nobody, I don’t think I want you to know that. Evil people are supposed to be stronger than good people. There’s no reason for this.”
“Well, I can’t forget it. La-Iin, I’m your best friend. I know I’m going to be one of those people who dies really early on in your life, but while I’m still alive, since I know this now you can talk to me about it whenever you want. I want to do whatever I can to help. After all, I care about you too. I don’t want to see you so sad.”
‘Fer-Shi is sickeningly kind,’ she thought to herself.
“Maybe. But I’d still prefer you forget it.”
“Not happening, La-Iin.”
‘What’s wrong with me…’

—–
“Mother, are you ever lonely?” Chung-Ae asked.
“Why would she be lonely? She has us, and she has Bes-Isa!” Song-Ii said.
“Yes, but remember, a lot of her old friends died, and so did Dami…” Hun-Seuth said.
Her children fell silent.
“Loneliness is an emotion for the weak,” she told them. “Every now and then I feel it. But only when I have the time to. And I let my disgust at that weakness make me stronger. There are ways to push past such things. Someday in the future you four may have to do the same. But always remember that no matter what, there is always a way to use something to your advantage. Even such disgusting feelings as loneliness and grief.”
“I don’t think they’re disgusting…” Sou-Yu said.
“Think what you will, Sou-Yu. Either way, do not let emotions stand in your way. Do not let anything stand in your way, or things will end up imperfect or in failure. Your father used an emotion I used to think was weak to his advantage, and in the end he did many great and evil things while alive. He is the one who taught me about using weak emotions to make you strong; without him I would not be at the point I am now.”
“You really loved him, huh?” Song-Ii asked.
“…I did. But now is no longer the time to dwell on his memory and grieve over it. No, I will take the things he did into account and best him in each and every way. I have moved on. This is a lesson the four of you need to know with your lifespans.”
She spread her wings. “So learn it soon.”
She swooped down and flew across the ruined area.
“I think I already have,” Chung-Ae sniffed. “Come on, let’s go after her.”
His siblings nodded. They too spread their wings and took off after their mother.

10.406.A Broken Son

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 406
“A Broken Son”

Night had fallen on all of Vaelyn, and most everyone in every part of it was asleep by now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya included.
Both were lost in their dreams, until Orlin-Aesth’s ears twitched. He had been dreaming about playing soccer with his high school friends when he heard a strange sound. His ears continued to twitch until he opened his eyes and realized he could hear Dosa-Mina screaming.
Elai-Riya was already awake and getting out of bed. Instinct put Orlin-Aesth on all fours and dashing after his wife as the two burst into their son’s room. He stood up.
Dosa-Mina was screaming loud enough that they would have wondered if their neighbors could hear him had they not been so worried. One arm slightly raised, he was thrashing about in bed, the only thing his parents able to make out in his screams being “San-Kyung”.
Elai-Riya moved faster to wake him up.
“Dosa-Mina! Dosa-Mina, wake up! Wake up!”
Orlin-Aesth shook his son until his screams started to calm. Dosa-Mina opened his eyes and started to breathe heavily. His eyes were wide with fear and streaming tears. Both his parents had to try and keep themselves from letting their sadness show.
Seeing their son like that always broke their hearts.
Dosa-Mina turned to see them. “Mom? Dad?”
“It’s alright, Dosa-Mina. You’re awake now,” Elai-Riya said. Orlin-Aesth could hear a slight waver in her voice.
“You can sleep with us tonight if you want to, okay? Are you alright?”
Dosa-Mina bit his lip, wiped away his tears, and then smiled at his parents. Both Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya felt they knew what was coming next.
“No, I’m fine. I probably won’t have another one when I go back to sleep. Sorry to wake you.”
“You say this every time, Dosa-Mina,” Elai-Riya said. “I don’t believe you.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, we happen to be your parents,” Orlin-Aesth said, sitting down on his bed. “We’re worried. And you know you can trust us, right?”
“I even changed to Normal form when I came to your school, and Orlin-Aesth covered up,” she said. “You don’t like talking about that. This is just a nightmare.”
Dosa-Mina’s expression did not change, save for his smile dissipating. Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Can you at least tell me this? Do these nightmares have….well, do they have any basis in reality? Like, are you reliving something?”
“I–” For a moment they both felt hopeful. “…it’s nothing. It’s just a nightmare. There’s nothing special about it.”
“Don’t you think you might feel a little bit better if you talk about it?” Elai-Riya asked. Orlin-Aesth could tell by her tone that she was starting to get irritated.
“No. That will just make me think about it again. And I don’t want to.”
“Dosa-Mina–”
“Please, I just want to go back to sleep. I have school in the morning.” He checked his clock. “And it’s already morning. I’m exhausted as it is. Thank you for waking me up, but please stop being so worried. I’m fine.”
He laid back down after that. With nothing else they could see to do, they walked out his room, both feeling as if they had failed him in some way.

***

“Goo-ood morning, Dosa-Mina!” Orlin-Aesth called. Dosa-Mina didn’t respond. Orlin-Aesth took a glance at his face.
“Aw, come on, Dosa-Mina, don’t be like that. I know, I know, it’s hard to just get over it when you’re sad. But come on. I can make feather soup for breakfast~”
“Thanks for the offer, Dad, but it’s alright. I have more of a taste for meat anyway.”
“What kind of meat? I’ll make any kind of meat you want.”
“…nothing in particular. I’m actually not all that hungry, Dad, so it doesn’t really matter if I eat or not…make breakfast if you want.”
Orlin-Aesth stared at him. “Something got you down, Dosa-Mina? Usually you’re all peppy in the morning…is it ’cause of the nightmare?”
Dosa-Mina did not respond.
“Dosa-Mina…you know I hate seeing you like this…please tell me what’s wrong so I can try and help.”
“It…it’s not anything you could help with, Dad. Talking to you about it would be pointless and just make me think about it more…”
“Why not? Something really bad happen? Got a broken heart? Come on, Dosa-Mina. Work with me here.”
“I told you, you can’t help me with it…”
His words were obviously having some effect, he could tell–Dosa-Mina’s eyes had started to glisten with tears. Orlin-Aesth wasn’t quite sure what to do next.
‘I can keep pressing him, but that might just make him feel worse. Or maybe he’ll finally decide to tell me…dammit! Why is he making this so difficult?”
“Dosa-Mina–”
“How much time is there until school?”
Orlin-Aesth blinked. “Uh, about thirty minutes?”
He sighed and stood up from the chair. “I should probably go then. Don’t worry, Dad. I’m fine, and I’ll be fine without any breakfast. See you later.”
“Dosa-Mina, come on! Why don’t you ever talk to us about your problems!? You know I’d never hate you, right? You know we wouldn’t tell anyone, right? Me and Elai-Riya just want to help you!”
“…I know you do,” Dosa-Mina said, glancing at his father over his shoulder. “I know you’d try. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that not even my parents or San-Kyung can help me with this. There’s no point in hiding that there’s anything wrong. But this isn’t something you three can deal with. I have to deal with it myself. That’s my only option. So don’t let yourself get so worried. Soon enough…” Orlin-Aesth noticed that he was starting to choke up. “Soon enough, I’ll be back to normal. Alright then, see you, Dad.”
Dosa-Mina left the house, slamming the door behind him. Orlin-Aesth remained where he was, feeling completely and utterly defeated.

“Where did I go wrong, Elai-Riya?”
“What’s wrong, Orlin-Aesth? What did you mess up this time?”
Orlin-Aesth slammed his head into his knees. “Sorry.”
“What did I do?”
“Mind telling me what this is all about?”
“…it has to do with Dosa-Mina,” he said. “Where did I mess up raising him that he ended up like this? When he gets sad he hides it from people. He’s really bad at hiding when he’s sad, but he’s really good at hiding what he’s sad about. And something he said to me before he left school makes me think he’s not confiding in San-Kyung either. He’s probably just carrying the weight of whatever burden he has all by himself…”
“…”
“And then there’s his species! He’s so fascinated by species and I’ve overheard him trying to encourage San-Kyung when he feels down about being Aesthetically Normal before. But he seems to hate the way he looks so much that he pretends he’s a Normal…and then, of course, there’s the nightmares…”
He buried his face into his knees. “Where did I mess up? What did I do so wrong that it made him not want to confide in anyone about his problems? What did I do wrong that he even has these problems in the first place?”
“…it might not just be your mistake, Orlin-Aesth,” Elai-Riya said. “I’ve felt the same way you do. I thought I took good care of him as a baby. I’m the one who taught him that song so he could transform into a Normal. At times I think that was one of the biggest mistakes of my life…hell, maybe it’s not you at all. Maybe it’s me. Instead of trying to make him feel better about the way he looked, I just went and taught him a song to hide it all, and now…maybe it’s just stuck. Maybe it’s just spreading into other parts and now he doesn’t trust anyone with anything about him anymore…”
“Don’t blame yourself, Elai-Riya!”
“But when you think about it that way, I really f@%ked up, didn’t I?” She hiccuped. “I didn’t try and help him. Instead, I taught him how to hide his problems. But doing that is only a temporary solution. And the more you rely on hiding your problems, the more you rely on burying them, the more painful they’ll be when they resurface. I didn’t help him. I might have just doomed him!”
“But you can’t put the blame just on yourself!” Orlin-Aesth yelled. “It’s not like I was out working all the time and you were the only one watching Dosa-Mina. When he was little, our schedules complimented each other. We took turns and sometimes we did things together. Both of us contributed to raising him. Both of us might have messed up. I’d rather think that than just put the blame on one of us, anyway.”
“But we tried so hard to give him a good childhood,” she sobbed. “And now he’s like this. Who knows how this might affect him in the future? And no matter how hard I try, he just gets frustrated with me and doesn’t tell me what’s wrong! Someday he’s just going to break, Orlin-Aesth! What are we going to do then? What if we aren’t even around anymore when he does!?”
“…instead of giving up, we have to keep trying,” he said. “We promised we’d do that, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, we did…” Elai-Riya dried her tears. “I just don’t know how anymore. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself before I started trying to teach him that song.”
“Hey, he’s still a kid for a little longer,” Orlin-Aesth said. “And there’s no guarantee he’ll move out the day he becomes an adult. Think about it, he doesn’t even bring in any vuyong right now. I think we have time. And even when he does move out, why should we let that stop us from trying to help him?”
“I just hope it doesn’t take that long,” Elai-Riya sighed.
“Me too, Riya, me too…”

—–
San-Kyung was nearing the gate to school when he heard footsteps behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted Dosa-Mina, who was walking with his head bowed a distance behind.
“Hey,” he called out. Dosa-Mina began to walk faster and soon caught up with San-Kyung. “Did something happen?”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond. “Dosa-Mina?”
“I…I can’t…”
“Huh?”
Dosa-Mina grabbed onto him, his grip almost too strong for San-Kyung to handle. There was something different about this, he quickly noticed.
Dosa-Mina wasn’t smiling and being playful and affectionate as he usually was when he would do this. Instead, he had broken into tears.
San-Kyung wasn’t sure what to do, except try and calm him down. He gently stroked his head. ‘I guess we have time before school starts…’

30.395.Eul-Bok’s Shell

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 395
“Eul-Bok’s Shell”

“Are you ready?”
“I’m ready! Let’s do this, Father!”
Ever since that brief exchange, Sale-Dessu had been enacting the final part of his V-Puppetry project–transferring Eul-Bok’s consciousness into the new vessel he had prepared for him. The procedure had been taking hours, and Sale-Dessu had to keep his focus on it the whole time.
‘This almost takes as much out of me as Hex Change Operation…’ His breathing had become ragged and loud, and on occasion Eul-Bok would let out whimpers and startle Sale-Dessu, which made it worse. His whole body ached and felt as if he had just run a long marathon and used many powers at the same time. Mentally and physically, he was drained, and his focus on the project at hand was getting harder to keep.
But whenever his thoughts tried to stray, he reminded himself of each day he had spent with Eul-Bok–the first day they had spent together, all the times he had consoled him when he became sad, and all the things he had dreamed of letting Eul-Bok do. Those things fueled him to keep going even when exhaustion threatened to overtake him.
“I’m warning you, Eul-Bok. This is a dangerous procedure and obviously I’ve never done it before. I don’t know if you’ll actually survive this.”
“I think I’ll be fine, Father. You’re the strongest Warlock I know. Even if you are probably a little weaker than Grepeta.”
“That’s not a surprise. She’s leagues better than me…” He had looked away from Eul-Bok. “But, I don’t want to get you killed, Eul-Bok…while I really want to do this, I also really want your confirmation that this is exactly what you want.”
“It is, Father. And if I don’t make it, I’m still valuable research information. But I’m confident I will survive. I consent, Father.”
“Then, if you’re really alright with it…we’ll do it.”
Sale-Dessu recalled their earlier exchange as he continued on. Breathing felt near impossible by this point in the procedure, and tears were streaming from his eyes. Pressure was building all over his body and Sale-Dessu began to fear that he would soon start to bleed. Still he pressed on.
‘I’ll go down with Eul-Bok if I have to.’ That one thought had crossed his mind during the procedure, but now, Sale-Dessu was beginning to fear it would actually come true.
In that room of Sale-Dessu’s house, an immense amount of power had built. It reached a peak and then began to fizzle. At that moment Sale-Dessu’s sight failed him, and shadows building at the corners of his eyes quickly advanced until his sight went dark.

***

Sale-Dessu felt he had relived almost every moment of his life in the span of two hours by the time he woke up. Rheum had built around his eyes and his whole body throbbed with pain. It took him what felt like a half-hour before he could actually sit up to observe the situation around him.
The room seemed mostly undisturbed after the procedure, save for a few items that were thrown around now. Sale-Dessu gasped when he noticed the bodies lying nearby–one the body he had always known to be Eul-Bok’s, and the other one the new body he had prepared for him.
Neither body looked disturbed, but Sale-Dessu still stayed fixed to the floor in fear, for there was no guarantee Eul-Bok had survived the procedure. Neither body was reacting in any way.
‘Please, please still be in this body.’ He performed the hand motions to wake a V-Puppet, but Eul-Bok’s plush body did not respond. His dread was starting to build as he went over to the new body.
He half-expected for Eul-Bok to wake right that moment. Save for his ball joints, Eul-Bok looked like a normal Warlock, fast asleep. But there were no signs of life. Sale-Dessu felt cold as he tapped Eul-Bok’s face, hoping for a reaction from him.
But nothing happened.
Tears blurred over his vision and his breath caught in his throat. The idea of Eul-Bok not having survived the procedure seemed unreal to him. But by now, it seemed that was the case, so he sat there in shock, unable to see his new body clearly.
‘My son…’
The room fell silent, and Sale-Dessu was alone in the quiet, the weight of what had just happened feeling like it would crush him. Carefully, he tidied Eul-Bok’s body to make it look more like he was asleep, hoping that would reassure him, but instead it only made the reality feel more obvious.
Now he felt a feeling he hadn’t felt before. Parts of it felt similar, but one thing in particular was hurting him most.
The knowledge that this was not a case of not being there to save his loved one, and that instead, he had sent him to his death by performing the procedure in the first place. Had he not tried to make Eul-Bok autonomous in this way, he would still be here.

Hours seemed to have passed, and Sale-Dessu still hadn’t moved from his spot. Although his body still ached from the procedure, he barely felt it while so lost in the memory of what had just happened.
“Father…?”
He shut his eyes tight. He contemplated whether he should teleport over to Eir-Tyuj’s house to seek consolement from her. But thinking on that only reminded him of her age, and in how dangerous a situation she was with her identity being open.
‘Everyone I love seems to die,’ he thought to himself. ‘And always, it’s because of something I probably could have done differently. If I had been smarter, or just been alert…’
He opened his eyes, feeling that the most comfort he would get now would be from going to lie in his bed, when he met wide green eyes that were staring directly at him.
“Father, what’s wrong?”
The voice was weak and didn’t sound quite as it used to. But Sale-Dessu recognized it all too well.
The body that had been lying down with his hands folded across him was now sitting up and staring at him, his eyes even blinking once. Sale-Dessu’s vision began to blur over worse.
“Father, are you okay?”
“Eul-Bok, I…I thought you had died!”
“I’m okay,” he said. “But are you gonna be? You look like you just relived your childhood!”
“I…” Sale-Dessu trailed off. He was so overtaken with joy that Eul-Bok was alive that he had almost forgotten what the project had been for in the first place. But he wasn’t sure quite how to react just yet, and his first instinct was to hug Eul-Bok close.
Eul-Bok didn’t respond that time save for a squeak.
It took a while for Sale-Dessu’s emotions to stabilize enough for him to talk again, but Eul-Bok stayed still that entire time, and let out a sigh of relief when he finally let go of him.
“Did you do all that crying because you thought I died?”
“You don’t understand, Eul-Bok. I’ve dealt with death before, and I’ve blamed myself for it so many times, but just then, just then…I thought I murdered you, I…”
“I’m fine, Father! Please don’t start crying again. I’m not sure I can take it.”
“You talk normally now,” he chuckled. “Your voice doesn’t sound warped at all.”
“Yeah, it sounds so weird. Actually, I feel really weird.”
“Speaking of that!” Sale-Dessu gasped. “Can you move? Can you stand? Was the project a success?”
“Um…” Eul-Bok stared at his arm, and Sale-Dessu watched in awe as he lifted it up in front of his face. Eul-Bok began to grin.
“I can move!”
“You can move!”
Sale-Dessu threw up his hands, ready to wrap Eul-Bok in a hug, when Eul-Bok did the same. Sale-Dessu gave another chuckle. “You were happy too, weren’t you?”
“Uh, no, I didn’t do that of my own voliton!” He said. “I was happy, though. But when you threw up your arms just now, it felt the same as when I was in that body…”
Eul-Bok trailed off and began to stare at his old plush body. He crawled over to it, unstable as if each movement felt unnatural to him, and picked it up, dropping it at first but soon holding it in the palm of his hand.
“It’s so weird…”
“So if I make a big movement, you make that same movement?” Sale-Dessu asked. “Oh, um….sorry to interrupt.”
“No, it’s nothing, really,” Eul-Bok said. “Just weird to see yourself lying there, is all. And, uh, I guess? You can try it again if you want.”
To test, Sale-Dessu stood up abruptly. Eul-Bok followed.
“But you can still move on your own, right?”
“Didn’t you see me just now?” Eul-Bok said cheerfully. He started to smile. “Oh, Father, I’m so happy! Now I can move around and be like your actual son! I…I….you did something amazing, Father!”
“And amazingly dangerous,” Sale-Dessu sighed.
“But nobody else has been able to make a V-Puppet autonomous before, have they? You’re the very first! It’s amazing! I was right to trust you, Father. With someone as powerful as you, how could I have died?”
“You put too much faith in me,” he said.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I have no faith in you when it comes to your social skills,” he said playfully. Sale-Dessu began to toy with a mat.
“I guess I have to get ready for the new autonomous Eul-Bok,” he said.
“It’ll be fun, Father,” Eul-Bok said. “I’m really looking forward to this. Hey, can we tell La-Iin and Bes-Isa?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Yay! I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces!”
Sale-Dessu smiled. The immense sadness and immense joy he had felt earlier had dissipated into a relaxed happiness as he watched Eul-Bok gush about his new life. His heart felt at ease and he was happy.
It was one of the best moods he had been in in his life.

—–
La-Iin stared wide-eyed at Eul-Bok the moment she saw him and her expression had not changed since then.
“You…you actually did it! You made him autonomous!”
All three around her could only wonder what Bes-Isa was feeling at that moment.
“Now I could throw you if I want,” Eul-Bok said.
“You won’t throw Bes-Isa,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I could, though,” Eul-Bok said.
“How did you…”
“A long, painful procedure,” Sale-Dessu replied. As he spoke, La-Iin noticed that he looked exhausted. “Eul-Bok almost didn’t make it out. Well, he says he made it out fine, but he wasn’t responding at first. And he still responds to my movements when they’re sudden enough.”
Sale-Dessu lifted his hand high up into the air in one swift motion. Eul-Bok did the same.
“I can’t believe this. I could finally become autonomous if I wanted to.”
La-Iin wanted to protest, but she kept her mouth shut. Still, watching Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, her heart felt heavy, and she felt as if now she would have no choice but to eventually let go of Bes-Isa.
“You could. But you’d need a new body and I think the procedure has a chance of failing. So you would have to be really sure. I’m not kidding when I say this! I’m not going to be responsible for a V-Puppet’s death or any sort of disappointment you might feel as a result.”
“I–“
La-Iin snapped her fingers.
“Why did you put her to sleep?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“No reason,” La-Iin said gruffly. “I’m going home.”
She stomped out the Astineth house with Bes-Isa in tow. Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok were confused as they watched her off.
‘I’m just going to lose Bes-Isa now. Now I won’t even have her when everyone else dies.’ Her eyes started to sting. ‘I hate Sale-Dessu! I wish he’d never succeeded! I wish Eul-Bok had just died!’

7.372.Tears and Shears to the Skin

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 372
“Tears and Shears to the Skin”

Downtown was bustling Wednesday afternoon, and though San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina were nowhere near the crowd, the sounds rising from the central were loud enough to be heard even by the stall plaza.
“I wonder if there’s some sort of event going on over there?” Dosa-Mina said. “Maybe a celebrity came to visit. I heard Usl-Thaehey came around here this time last year.”
“People get too excited about things like that,” San-Kyung said. “Even if I liked people, I don’t think I’d ever get their fixation on celebrities.”
“Yeah, some people take it to pretty crazy levels. I like some celebrities, but just like a fan. I’m not a fanatic.” Dosa-Mina glanced around the plaza. “So, anything you want from here?”
“I don’t know, you pick. But I’m parched.”
“Are you ever anything but?” Dosa-Mina giggled.
“I don’t think I can be.”
“Well, I’ll find something that’ll help. Is it the cold weather getting to you, San-Kyung? I have so many long-sleeved shirts I could lend you, and a lot of those are nice and woolly!”
“Your obsession with long sleeves still confuses me. It sounds helpful in Winter, but…”
“I’m a teenager, San-Kyung, and there are lots of teenagers who like to make fashion statements! My Dad did when he was a teenager. Although, I don’t think my Mom did…” Dosa-Mina shook his head. “Never mind that. I’ll go get us something to drink!”
San-Kyung sat on a bench while he waited for Dosa-Mina. ‘Those long sleeves are probably why he likes going out in the Winter so much.’ San-Kyung personally felt freezing even wearing some of the warmest clothes he could find. He was shivering slightly by the time Dosa-Mina came back with two tall drinks.
“I hope you don’t mind seed and meringue. I thought you might like it because of the seeds.”
“Not pumpkin seeds though, right?” San-Kyung said defensively.
“Since when have I been crazy enough to do that?” Dosa-Mina said. He lifted his drink up to his mouth. “Honestly, San-Kyung. I’m around you so much I’m starting to see eating pumpkins as cannibalism too!”
Dosa-Mina continued on, but San-Kyung didn’t notice what he said. Something was bothering him. Dosa-Mina’s sleeve cuff was pulled back slightly, and he noticed something that looked like the starts of a scar. He waited for Dosa-Mina to stop drinking before asking his question.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina?”
“Mm-hm, what is it? You wanna know what flavor the drink is? It’s waterwhip.”
“No, it’s not that. Do you have a scar on your wrist? Where did you get that from?”
Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened and his hand moved to cover the scar. “That’s not a scar! It’s a weird skin marking!”
‘Something’s wrong. He’s hiding something.’ “It looked like a scar. I think I know what scars look like.” Realization dawned on him. “Is that why you wear long sleeves all the time, to hide that scar? What happened, Dosa-Mina?”
Dosa-Mina had backed away from San-Kyung slightly. “No, I told you! The sleeves are just a fashion statement, and that’s not a scar! It’s a weird skin marking, so just stop bothering me about it!”
“I know you’ve been hiding something from me, Dosa-Mina,” San-Kyung said. He was trying to keep his tone calm so Dosa-Mina would hear him out, but he couldn’t prevent a slight bit of anger from making its way into his voice. “If this is it, I want to know about it. I don’t remember giving you a scar in any of our fights. I don’t think I could. That didn’t look like a burn scar or anything like that, it looked like a cut–”
“Shut up, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina yelled. He let go of his waterwhip, which went flying behind him. “It’s nothing, alright? If you’re going to be like this, I’m leaving!”
He got up and started to run off, soon jumping away.
San-Kyung was concerned and curious, but mostly, he was furious. He stood up and chased after Dosa-Mina.
At first Dosa-Mina was nowhere in sight, and he began to wonder if he hadlost him. Just as he was starting to feel short on breath, he noticed his friend’s familiar hairstyle.
“Dosa-Mina!” He called out. ‘Shit, that might not have been the best strategy.’ Dosa-Mina turned around, his eyes watery though he barely looked on the verge of tears.
“San-Kyung. ….are you just going to bother me about that again? I told you, it’s a skin marking. Don’t you have birthmarks?”
“Uh…” San-Kyung pondered what to do next. An idea quickly came to him. “I wanted to apologize.”
Dosa-Mina just stared at him, as if waiting for him to continue. “Sorry I…brought up something sensitive. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine.”
Dosa-Mina seemed to relax. “Want to hug on it?”
He smiled. “Sure. That would be nice.”
San-Kyung reached out his hands as if to hug Dosa-Mina, but before he could react, he grabbed his arms and pushed his sleeves upwards.
San-Kyung flinched. Dosa-Mina’s arms were scored with scars, several of them clean as if they had been cut straight across. One on his left arm looked fairly recent, as if it had only closed a few days ago. San-Kyung had seen worse, and yet he was still surprised.
Dosa-Mina didn’t react at first, except for recoiling in surprise. But his horror was quickly evident.
“What is this?” San-Kyung asked.
“It’s not…it’s nothing….”
“This is a shit-ton of scars! How is that nothing!? Where did you get all these!? You didn’t have these in Elementary school!”
Now San-Kyung was certain that Dosa-Mina’s claims of making a fashion statement were false. He wore the sleeves to cover all the scars. What San-Kyung couldn’t figure out was where the scars could have come from.
“How could you, San-Kyung…” Dosa-Mina said quietly. “You…I thought you…”
“You know, I can be worried too,” he snapped. “What should I think when I see my friend has a whole bunch of scars all over his arms? And that one’s recent!”
He tried to relax, if for nothing else to calm Dosa-Mina down. “There are so many possible explanations I can’t just come to a conclusion on my own. You need to tell me, Dosa-Mina. You can’t pretend like I’ve never seen it now.”
“No!”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. He was trying not to get mad at Dosa-Mina, especially considering the possible causes of the scars. But his frustration was building.
“I talk to you about some of my most sensitive subjects. You know all about how I feel about being stuck in this form ninety-nine percent of the time. You’ve seen me cry before. But I guess your problem’s worse. Some friend you are. What a mistake it was to bother.”
“I–” Dosa-Mina looked desperate now. He looked away from San-Kyung.
“I–I did this. These scars are all here because of me.”
Before San-Kyung could ask what he meant, it clicked in his head.
“I cut myself. But, if you were in my position, you’d understand why! I regret these scars every time I have to wash off a fresh one and every time I take off my shirt and I see them, but if you understood what I felt in those moments I decide to do it, you might understand.”
Dosa-Mina seemed to be drained of his energy by now. His arms lay limply at his side as he continued speaking. “You know, they’re probably all permanent. I’m always desperate in those moments, so I cut deeper than I probably should. They hurt and bleed like hell. I’ve been doing this for a little bit now, over a couple years, so I’m surprised nobody noticed until now. And I have to live with this. I can’t take them back. I have to wash off fresh ones, I have to see them when I go in the shower or when I change, I have to make that conscious decision to put on long sleeves because by this point there’s just so many of them–”
“A couple years?” He asked.
“…the first one was a little bit before we went to Deatrou,” he said. “So in case you were wondering, it has nothing to do with the bullying. …it’s just a feeling I get sometimes. I can’t really think clearly when I get that feeling. But what was I supposed to do? Ask for help? Oh, go ahead and tell my friend who used to hate me and beat me up that I’m cutting myself now? Go to my parents and tell them? That sounded terrifying! And do you remember back when they were trying to do pool classes at Malicerie? Remember how I asked you to help me get out of it? Well, now you know the real reason why.”
“…”
Dosa-Mina’s expression became pained, though he still didn’t look back up at San-Kyung. “I don’t know what to say, San-Kyung. Except ask you to keep this a secret. I’m not strong enough to deal with this all getting out. You’re one thing. Explaning this to all of Malicerie or to my parents would be another.”
“I barely talk to anyone as it is,” he mumbled. “…am I supposed to say something? Because I have no idea what to think. I knew you had problems, but I didn’t think they were that bad…”
“Well, now you know,” he said. “When it comes to my emotions, I’m weaker than a sickly Pureblood Normal with severe burns and amputated everything. ….that’s a dramatic example, but I mean it.”
Dosa-Mina bowed his head lower, and San-Kyung noticed his shoulders start to shake. He was still so surprised by the revelation and the sight of all the scars. He felt there was something he should do, but he wasn’t quite sure of what.
Then he thought back on what he had said earlier. He felt awkward the entire time, but he pulled Dosa-Mina close. Once he did that, Dosa-Mina broke into loud sobs. San-Kyung gave a quiet sigh and decided to stay there with him until he finally calmed down.
The two would stand there for a while longer, Dosa-Mina’s sleeves rolled up the entire time.

—–
Dosa-Mina reached for the glint on the night desk. He couldn’t remember bringing the knife into his room, but he felt it was the sign he needed.
The despair he felt from San-Kyung’s suicide was unbearable. If he was only going to keep feeling this way, he was better off joining his friend.
He rolled up his sleeves and put the knife to his arm. At first he didn’t cut deep enough to cause any bleeding, but his determination grew until he cut a deep wound in his upper arm. Blood started to leak down his arm at a startling rate, but by this point, he didn’t care. He kept creating more of the deep wounds on both arms until he was tired and felt like he could barely focus.
He tried to look down at the blood, but he couldn’t bring himself to. That only made him remember he was injured at all. So long as he focused solely on the idea of seeing San-Kyung again, the pain felt like a footnote.
‘But what if San-Kyung wouldn’t want this for you?’ In the midst of his thoughts, one dissenting voice appeared. ‘He loved you. He wouldn’t want you dead. Life doesn’t last forever. Someday you’ll get to see him again, most likely. And he would want you to live, wouldn’t he?’
Thinking on it, he knew how close he and San-Kyung had been. Imagining how San-Kyung would react if he had been the one to throw himself off a building broke his heart. San-Kyung might not be around anymore, but he knew his friend well enough to know how he would have reacted.
Dosa-Mina decided to stop the bleeding. He staggered from the bed and tried to leave the bedroom, but by now his arms were almost soaked in blood. He felt light-headed and his vision was starting to blur over. He could feel the pain in full-force again.
Had he been more conscious, he might have realized he would never make it. But at that point he was so far gone that he collapsed to the ground and took his last breath without ever realizing it for himself.

When Dosa-Mina woke up, he didn’t feel quite as startled as he normally felt from the dream.
He only felt confused and upset.
He felt as though there was a pressure building in his arms, but instead of searching for his knife, he decided to deal with the feeling. Discomfort plagued him the rest of the night and in his distraction he cursed himself for not reaching for the knife.

16.350.Snow Over Dasdoria

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 350
“Snow Over Dasdoria”

“They say it should snow soon,” Mit-Sun said. “So we might get snow before Winter arrives.”
La-Iin groaned. “It feels like it’s just getting really cold really fast,” she sighed. “I wouldn’t care if I had wing cozies or something, but I don’t.”
“I can try and make you some. I haven’t sewn anything in too long, but–”
“They’d probably be bad,” she sighed. Mit-Sun shook her head.
“I just wonder how cold it’s going to be in Winter…”
“Maybe it’s just getting cold now and it won’t go down any lower than where it already is.”
“I doubt it. Snow’s fine, but it’s too cold and it makes my wings wet. Wings aren’t good to have during Winter. But if I had to pick, I’d pick wings over Winter. Wings can help me all the time and Winter’s just a dumb season that happens.”
La-Iin rested her head on her hand and looked away from Mit-Sun. She soon glanced back and asked, “Did I have to be born in Winter?”
“Yes, otherwise you would’ve been too late. You were doomed to Winter from the start. If you were born early, you would’ve been born in January, and if you were born too late, you would’ve been born in March, still in the Winter.”
“The same birthday month as San-Kyung might have been nice…” La-Iin mumbled to herself. “It’s not fair though. All because you wanted to make babies with Dami I had to be born with wings in the Winter. I wonder if this is how San-Kyung feels about his parents…”
“I didn’t–” Mit-Sun opened her mouth in protest, but quickly realized there was no way she could explain her feelings back then without getting flustered. She closed her mouth.
“I don’t hate it, I just wish it was less cold. Summer never gets as hot as Winter gets cold…”

***

A chill was in the air as soon as La-Iin woke that day, and everything around her felt cold. Her face, the mud that squelched underneath her, the clothes on her body. She wondered at first if she was sick, but when she sat up and started to wake she didn’t feel any of the tell-tale signs of illness.
Beside her, Mit-Sun was still fast asleep, her expression more peaceful than it had been recent nights. She touched her. The mud on Mit-Sun was also freezing cold, as were her clothes and her body. She felt her forehead. It didn’t feel clammy, so she doubted Mit-Sun was sick either.
It had been cold recently in Dasdoria, but this chill must have come overnight. She felt the mud she had slept on to see if it had retained any warmth. She curled up in her outline, but the mud was as cold as when she had woke. Her hands, nose and wings felt it the most bitterly.
‘I can’t sleep.’ She didn’t think a chill would wake Mit-Sun, so she decided to walk around Dasdoria. There was nothing better for her to do, and she doubted Fer-Shi was awake in this darkness.
Over time her eyes had better adjusted to the night, and she was able to make out the outlines and faces of people as she passed by them. Most were asleep and completely still–either that or they were dead, and she wasn’t interested in going up to them to figure out which one it was. Some twitched in their sleep and some groaned. When she glanced at the trees, she could see the glint of eyes.
‘I’ll never get to do what I want in a place like this.’ The sadness of that fact started to creep up on her as she walked past sleeping people, shivering against the cold. She flapped her wings to see if she could warm them, but they felt almost frozen to her back and what little flapping she managed hardly helped.
As she continued onward, she heard voices up ahead.
“Should I just let them all die….?” The voice sounded calm, but it was edged with sadness. “Even if we all survive for a thousand years, it’ll only be a thousand years of sadness. We can’t escape this place. And….Ca-Miela….”
The voice broke into sobs. La-Iin passed by the source of the voice, a Vampire woman with her head buried in her knees as she cried. Sleeping nearby her was a Vampire man, a Vampire boy and two Vampire girls. One was as small as she was and also had blonde hair, though La-Iin felt the girl was younger than her. Nearby the family sat bones, likely the bones of some animal they had eaten. La-Iin noticed how tiny the pile was. ‘It probably barely fed them.’
She could only wonder how anyone would want to start a family of that size in a place like this. If she and Mit-Sun could barely fend for themselves, then how could a family of five?
Again sadness washed over her as she thought on her desires for the future. Survival was basically all she had time for–she barely even spent any time with Fer-Shi no matter how close she was to the girl. She and Mit-Sun often slept, and when they weren’t sleeping they were looking for any scrap of food or something to make them feel better despite all the mud. La-Iin had heard tales of Dasdorians who had tried to escape, and even some who had succeeded. Mit-Sun had never tried such a thing.
She wondered, if she had, would they have been one of the successful ones?
“Are you feeling all right?” A familiar voice rasped. La-Iin flinched and turned in its direction. She had believed the voice was talking to her, but instead she saw San-Kyung, his parents and Dosa-Mina’s parents sleeping nearby him. Dosa-Mina seemed to be using him to prop himself upwards, and his eyelids drooped as if he were exhausted.
“All right enough as you can in Dasdorian Winter…”
“Do you need any food?”
“I’m not eating any more of you unless I get desperate. I’m sick of doing it anyway. I can barely keep it down when I remember where it comes from.”
She noticed San-Kyung grimace. “If only I’d been able to escape on the Power’s Eve….”
“How could you have known the guards were that prepared? Although I guess we should have expected it. Leaving here wouldn’t have such a low success rate if they weren’t super-prepared.”
“I bet they have it easy,” he scoffed.
“There’s a saying that nobody has it easy in Dasdoria. Anyway, why don’t you sleep instead of worrying about it? I’m not one to be optimistic, but there’ll never be any chance of getting out of here if we don’t survive until the best opportunity arrives.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “I owe this world nothing but destruction for the way it’s treated me. And the same goes for the people in it. They’re part of the reason I have to live life the way I do now…”
“Will you pardon me if you ever get to do that?”
“You get me. I need to pardon you. I don’t think there’s anyone else out there in this world who understands how I feel about all this better than you…”
La-Iin was tempted to go up to San-Kyung, if only to talk to him or ask him about his plans, but she saw him start to lie down. Even if it was only the idea of his evil that endeared her towards him, she still cared for him, to a degree, and she wasn’t going to bother him if he had a plan that could get him out of here.
‘Maybe I could sneak out while he’s doing that. I’ll have to keep an eye on him. Or maybe I can help….’
Her head drooped as she continued on. ‘But maybe not. I always do my best just to survive. I never even have the time to try and escape, with or without Mama. Even if I did, I’d just have to keep going until I found someplace that’s not horrible. And who knows what kind of not-horrible place is around here? And do they speak Dasdorian? And who knows if I’d ever be able to do something like San-Kyung?’
She had to agree with what he had said. The world wasn’t a good place if Dasdoria could exist in it. And the people were not much better–they were either horrible in a way that affected her or annoying. She might have found solace in more people than San-Kyung, but it didn’t really matter. She felt she’d still feel the same way even if the world were perfect. There was just something unsettling about both ideas, and she enjoyed the thought of having that sort of control.
As she passed by more sleeping bodies, the scent of mud was drowned out by something else. It smelled like something was burning, so she turned to see what it was. Her stomach was growling as she watched a skinny Warlock, his long hair badly matted and covered in mud, focused intently on a pile of twigs. He shut his eyes in concentration, and whatever he was doing seemed to be a strain on him. ‘I better not have walked over to someone going to the bathroom.’
The twigs in front of him started to change shape. La-Iin watched curiously as the twigs turned into a loaf of bread. The Warlock opened one eye cautiously, as if he had been worried about the results. When he noticed the bread, his mouth opened in a grin and he ran for it, quickly scarfing it down.
After he finished it, his visible eye glanced over at La-Iin. La-Iin flinched. The Warlock swallowed and, brushing his hair over his face moreso than it already was, he walked over to La-Iin.
“Are you hungry?” He asked.
“Isn’t everyone in Dasdoria?” She snapped back.
“I saw you watching,” he said shyly. “It’s hard to use that power, so I haven’t gone around making food for everyone…but I can make something for you, since you’re awake.”
The man shivered. “You just need to bring me something, like some twigs…”
“Or mud?” La-Iin asked, picking mud up off the ground. The Warlock blinked.
“….or mud.” He turned to face it. “Be patient, this might take a little bit…”
He focused on the mud and shut his eyes as he had before. La-Iin stared at the mud, eager for it to change shape any time. But it seemed to be taking longer than it had for him to change the twigs into bread. She wondered if it was because mud was harder for him to work with, or because he had exhausted himself. She was tempted to just walk away, but having seen the bread, she knew he must actually have that sort of power, and her stomach growled once again. The Warlock flinched, then shut his eyes tighter as if he had been briefly distracted.
Eventually the mud started to change shape, and it formed into a loaf of bread just like the one he had been eating. He started to pant and hold his head as he stepped away from La-Iin.
“Enjoy your bread,” he said weakly, then flopped onto the ground, still panting.
La-Iin walked on with the bread. She wondered what Mit-Sun would think if she brought bread back, so she decided to turn around. The excitement of food had chased away the sadness she felt at her unachievable goal, and she started to break into a run, propelled by her wings.
“La-Iin!”
Another familiar voice called out, though this time, it was for her. Fer-Shi waved, a smile on her face. She always seemed much more cheerful than their situation warranted.
“You just saw my bread,” she said.
“I actually didn’t,” she admitted. Her eyes started to wander off towards the bread. “But, uh…that is a lot of bread….would you mind sharing a little with me?”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She sat down next to Fer-Shi and broke off part of it. Fer-Shi started to munch it hungrily.
“Why are you awake?”
“It’s really cold outside. I kept sneezing and couldn’t get any sleep. You?”
“I just woke up and it was too cold to go back to sleep.”
“I see….I ate that bread too fast and now it’s gone,” she sighed. “I won’t ask you for any more, though.” Despite her words, La-Iin noticed her staring at the bread out the corner of her eye, and she moved it out of her line of sight before tearing off a piece and starting to eat.
Fer-Shi’s eyes eventually shifted from the bread and she stared up at the sky. “Look, La-Iin!”
“It’s just the sky,” she said, glancing up. She soon noticed what Fer-Shi was pointing out. Snow was drifting down from the sky. La-Iin noticed several snowflakes, and the fall seemed to be advancing fairly quickly. La-Iin wondered if a snowstorm was on its way, and she became filled with dread.
Fer-Shi didn’t seem to feel quite the same way. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
“It looks like it’s gonna be a snowstorm.”
Fer-Shi squinted up at the snow falling to the ground and her smile dropped. “Yeah, I guess it kinda does,” she sighed. “I still think it’s pretty. At least before it starts causing problems…”
La-Iin didn’t respond and bit into the bread. “This bread tastes like mud,” she said.
“Yeah, it kinda does, doesn’t it?”

—–
Snow had begun to cover the mud and pile up all over Dasdoria. La-Iin shivered violently as Mit-Sun ate a small piece from the bread. It had started to harden by the time she had gotten it to her mother, but she still seemed grateful for the meal.
“Come here, La-Iin,” Mit-Sun said, beckoning to her. She pulled her close and started to rub her shoulder. La-Iin figured it was to help warm her up, but it wasn’t doing much.
She couldn’t help but appreciate the gesture, however, and curled up next to her mother. There was not much the two could do with the oncoming snowstorm, so she decided to accept the comfort Mit-Sun was offering.

13.317.This World is Mine to Command

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 317
“This World is Mine to Command”

“Oh, your little boy is so cute!” An Animated Pumpkin woman said as she passed by Del-Kyuus and Salsh-Era. The two smiled at each other and walked up to her.
“Go on, San-Kyung, say hi!” Del-Kyuus said, lifting up San-Kyung’s small hand and waving it at the woman.
San-Kyung’s expression remained blank.
“…he’s a very quiet baby,” Salsh-Era chuckled.
“Come on, San-Kyung…” Del-Kyuus sighed. “I swear, he does this every time.” She took him out his carrier and held him close to the woman. San-Kyung did not react, though his blank stare up at the woman almost looked like a glare.
“Maybe he’s just a little cranky,” she said. “But babies are easy to please. Awwwh!” The woman began to tickle San-Kyung’s stomach. Instead of giggling, San-Kyung’s stare gradually turned into an actual glare, until his face began to contort and he started to cry.
“Whoa!” Del-Kyuus said, swiping San-Kyung away from the woman. “I’m so sorry!”
“No big deal,” the woman said. “Have a good day!”
Del-Kyuus let San-Kyung cuddle up against her shoulder and sighed. “He does this to everyone.”
“Maybe he’s just shy. He wouldn’t be able to express that very well right now…” He stroked San-Kyung’s head. San-Kyung made a contented noise.
“We should probably stop letting so many strangers touch him,” he said.
“I guess so…but I love showing off my baby so much.” She put him back inside his carrier.
“I know you do. I do too. I’m sure he’ll be a lot friendlier when he grows up. But for now I think we should keep the showing off to a minimum.”
“Alright.”

***

San-Kyung couldn’t stand people. He hated all of them except his mother and father.
What did people ever do good for the each other? They were all two-faced liars. He never knew when he would talk to someone and they would be a bad person, so he came to the conclusion that they all were. He remembered hearing on the news stories about people harming each other or fighting. They all had an ugly side and they always tried to hide it, hoping they would be seen as good for their own pleasure. It was disgusting.
And what did people ever do good for the world? In his eyes the world was a piece of garbage, and he wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that was because of people. They were all truly abhorrent. There were huge fights between people in the world. People claimed parts of the world as their own and defended them with the blood of other people. They took things other people liked and made them disgusting and dirty. They ruined everything.
His parents seemed different. He thought they were at least trying, that they might be genuine about their good. But that was it. Everyone else was worthless and horrible. They were all using each other and the world for their own gains, for their own goals. Other people never crossed their minds, he was sure of it, and if they did it was only when they were thinking of how they could use them.
Calling him so cute. Where did that get them? What was their motivation? San-Kyung knew people were ugly, but what were their motivations for some of the things they did? He grit his teeth and slammed a block onto a stack of them. The stack went falling.
He couldn’t stand it. People ruined everything. Why did he have to be born into this world that was so horrible? What was the reason for it? What was the reason for anything?
San-Kyung had heard stories of Hell from Cathiens before. From the bottom of his heart, he hoped Hell was real. It would show all those people who used other people and the world for their own gains.

And as he got older, San-Kyung only continued to hold those views. He tried to avoid talking to people at all if he could manage it. It was easy enough to be nice to them, he realized. If he wanted to, he could probably smile at them and treat them kindly. But then he would be no better than them. He’d just be doing the same two-faced crap they did, and he wanted to be better.
No, he was better than them. Because he at least could realize that people were disgusting. So he treated them the way they deserved to be treated. Or at least, as much as he felt he could. His parents, whom he was still certain were trying harder than the others in the world, wouldn’t like it if he physically harmed others. So he wouldn’t do it if they could learn about it, he reasoned. They were just too stupid to realize people were two-faced, and San-Kyung didn’t have the heart to tell them. He liked his parents as they were, even if he wanted them to wisen up.
His powers had begun to bud a year ago, and now he could summon from his hand a small, flickering flame. Nowadays he would just watch it, but sometimes he wondered what would happen if he just set fire to every place in the world he could reach.
He could imagine everything engulfed in flames, all the awfulness of that area destroyed.
And then, he would raise vines from the ground. They would replace whatever used to be there. In fact, San-Kyung found himself raising vines from the ground often. Those vines were like a part of him, tangling around the ugliness in the world and creating something that he could at least look at.
He wasn’t so good at it yet. Oftentimes he accidentally ended up killing the vines. But it was of no concern to him. Those vines were a part of him. They weren’t truly dead until he was. And most of his vines he kept. He would walk ahead of his parents and form a beautiful vine creation.
Nature listened to him, at least. Nature wasn’t two-faced and disgusting like people. It was just natural. It just did what it had to do. San-Kyung liked nature. The world would be completely ugly if it just disappeared, so he vowed that he would never allow it to disappear.
After all, he needed something aside from his parents to keep him sane in this world.

After some time, an idea wormed its way into San-Kyung’s mind.
If people just continued to be disgusting, nobody would do anything about them. People needed other people to use for their own goals. And he had no use for people; he made himself strong without them, save his mother and father, and even then he felt he could go on without them if they hated him for his ultimate decision.
He would rule the world. He would use fire and nature to decimate it. He would terrorize these people who never did anything worthwhile. He would make the world something better and use all his lifetime to do so. He didn’t care if the world would eventually revert back to its disgusting self after he died. He and his parents would be gone, so there would be nothing they could do about it.
And besides, using his powers gave him a thrill. Something about striking his hand and seeing the fire rise, or raising vines from the ground made him feel wonderful. And every year, October only made that thrill better. It made him feel that he could truly rule the world someday.
When he thought about it during those times, he realized the world didn’t deserve his sympathy either. Nature may have only done what it needed to do, but how couldn’t that include dealing with people who used it for their gains? How come the world didn’t do anything when people would tear up parts of it or hack and slash at it?
Simply, because the world was stupid. It didn’t care that people were using it for their own gains. Maybe it simply had no sense. Maybe it actually enjoyed being used. Maybe it was using people too. Either way, the world did nothing to protect itself, so it didn’t deserve his sympathy.
He would rule this world. He would make people pay. He would make the world pay. He would make all of nature pay except for those parts of himself who would always stay loyal, no matter what. There was very little worth in a place like this, and if everyone else was allowed to use people and the world for their own gains and amusement, he would too.
That power, he was sure, would bury any sadness he felt that things weren’t better. That he had to look like a Normal instead of the way he felt most comfortable. That there wasn’t anybody else worth his time when he still had so much more love to give.
Those, however, were the thoughts of the good. He was evil. So they would have to be suppressed.

People were screaming on the streets as buildings crackled and collapsed. Vines rose from everywhere, a dark orange tint spreading across them as they hardened and trapped people in the burning nightmare land.
San-Kyung gave a cackle of confidence as he watched on. Levitating next to him were his father, mother, and Dosa-Mina. All the people that mattered in the world, watching on, enamored.
Then, they flickered away. Then back to his side. And away again.
‘If they don’t want to stay, they don’t have to,’ San-Kyung thought. But each time they disappeared, he felt an undeniable sadness. He responded to it by gritting his teeth and trying to appear frustrated instead.
Whether he had to rule this world alone or have them by his side, he didn’t care. They would still be spared the nightmare.
This world was his to command, and someday, he would realize this goal.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung snapped out of the daydream. Dosa-Mina wore a concerned expression. “You started spacing out. Are you alright? Are you getting sick again?”
“Uh…no. I’m fine. It’s nothing.”
“Don’t lie to me, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina sighed.
“It’s something that doesn’t matter right now,” he said.
Sometimes when San-Kyung thought on that, he couldn’t help but feel sad about something. He wasn’t quite sure what it was anymore. Nowadays, it was buried along with the other things that were completely useless to him.
Still, he wondered if someday, Dosa-Mina would ever notice that sadness. Somebody had to, right?