3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31.577.Motivated Towards Destruction

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 577
“Motivated Towards Destruction”

Sand rose from the ground and began to shape itself–or that was how it might have looked to an outsider. Behind the wall of sand stood Baal-Mist, who moved his wand methodically to create a large sandcastle. Halfway through the completion of the castle, he began to create small dolls from debris nearby, and fit them into the castle. As he was putting on the finishing touches, he heard someone walk up behind him.
“Wow, Baal-Mist! This is amazing!”
“Thanks, Mamil! I’ve been thinking about doing it for days, but I only just got down the whole thing about transforming garbage into actual objects.”
“Well, it’s great! But I’m not sure we can keep it. How many feet high is this thing?”
“I dunno, fifteen?”
“It looks like a lot more than that.” She smiled. “You’re quite the talented Warlock, you know that?”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my Mamil!”
“Well, maybe I am, but I think I’d still think it if I wasn’t, and I’m sure your Falun would agree.”
“Mamil, I don’t call him Falun anymore.”
“I know, I know.” She sighed. “With this level of talent though, you could do anything, I’d bet. Have you decided what you’re going to make your focus yet?”
“No, not yet. There’s just so many things to do, it’s hard to imagine finding one thing to focus on.”
“You don’t have to focus on it all the time, Baal-Mist. It’s just the thing you’re best at. Like how I’m best at making toys.”
“You do make pretty great toys.”
His mother stared at the sandcastle for a while in silence. “Hey, maybe you’ll find out in a few weeks! They say the powerful Witch Astineth Eir-Tyuj is going to be stopping by our little village for a short while. She knows a ton about powers. She might be able to give you some advice, although I’ve heard she’s a bit prickly!”
“Why do I need some old Witch to tell me what I should do?”
“I said advice, not make a decision for you.” She gave another sigh. “You know, Baal-Mist, I’m glad I have you.”
“Why’d you say that? I know you’re glad.”
“You do, but when I was younger like you, I was sad a lot. But I’m never that badly sad anymore now that I have you, so I’m looking forward to whatever you do, although I’d prefer it if you stay close to home while you do it!”
“What if I get famous?”
“I’ll follow you.”
“You’re not gonna make me stay at home all the time though, are you?”
She giggled. “Of course not. I’m just happy for you and your Falun. I just wanted to tell you that. You two make my life brighter.”
“You can be really corny sometimes, Mamil.”
“I know, I know.”

***

As his mother had told him, the powerful Witch Astineth Eir-Tyuj landed in their village a few weeks later, and was the center of attention for many who had heard about her. Baal-Mist didn’t end up seeing much of her, but he knew his mother was excited to meet her.
“She really is a prickly one, though!” She told them later that day. “I suppose that comes from hearing so many amateurs ask you questions all the time.”
“Professionals don’t need to be prickly,” her husband said. “By the way, Selie-Fougie, how much longer does she plan on staying here?”
“She said she was going to stay here until she figured something out, but no matter how much the crowd asked her what that was, she wouldn’t answer. I guess she’s trying to keep it top-secret.”
“She sounds like a crotchety old lady.”
“She may be a little crotchety, but she isn’t all that old yet. Anyway, it was great to meet her. Maybe I’ll take you to see her tomorrow!”
“I’m not sure I wanna meet her!”
“Aw, give her a chance.”
‘Mamil really wants me to meet her. It’s weird. She’s always talked about me having a singular purpose, but isn’t this Miss Astineth a multi-purpose Witch? Sometimes Mamil makes no sense.’
He half hoped he would find an excuse to get out of it somehow, for he didn’t like the way his mother described Eir-Tyuj. But she seemed so excited about it that he doubted he would find that excuse.

When Baal-Mist woke up, he expected to see sunlight filtering into his room and his mother waiting for him to get ready so that he could go and meet Eir-Tyuj. He didn’t expect to see the last remnants of what appeared to be blood and dust before it faded into his room.
Baal-Mist chalked it up to the leftovers of his dream, at least, until he heard the sound of crying coming from a nearby room. He was curious and concerned, but wasn’t sure if he should get out of bed. Still, he never usually heard crying, and why would anyone be crying?
His concern gave way, so he got out of bed and head in the direction of the crying. It began to get louder and louder, until he heard a strange sound and the crying stopped altogether. Without a guide, Baal-Mist felt lost within the dark house. He groped around for a light switch, then remembered about his wand. He ran back to his room, got his wand and lit up his path.
‘Nobody’s crying anymore. Maybe everything’s alright? Who was crying anyway? Was it Mamil or Father?’
He checked in his parents’ bedroom, and noticed quickly that Selie-Fougie was not in the bed, only his father. And anyway, he hadn’t heard the crying coming from that direction. Slightly concerned, he checked all the rooms he could find until finally he stumbled across an open closet. Something appeared to be inside. He hovered his wand in front of it.
Something was hanging in there. Dread filled him as he followed the rope to what it was tied to–his mother, dangling in mid-air with her eyes closed.
Baal-Mist shrieked and went running for his father.
“Father! Father! Something’s wrong with Mamil!” He shook him. “Wake up, Father! Something’s wrong with Mamil!”
“Huh?” His father looked confused when he noticed nobody was in bed beside him. “Selie-Fougie?”
“Something’s wrong with Mamil!” He cried. His father seemed to instantly snap to the alert and got out of bed and followed his son to the closet. When Baal-Mist held his lit wand in front of it, his father let out a wail, and contrary to Baal-Mist’s expectations, stood there crying violently.
It was only when he saw the look on his father’s face that he realized there was nothing that could be done for his mother.

The village had been deeply affected by Selie-Fougie’s death, less because of her notoriety within the village, but more because of her method of death. Before her death had been announced, Baal-Mist and his father had found what appeared to be the start of a suicide note, but the handwriting was nearly illegible and it made no sense to him–what little was readable in the note seemed to imply that she believed that he and his father were dead.
‘What caused Mamil to do this?’ He wondered. ‘Why would she believe that we were dead?’ He felt like blaming his mother, but he couldn’t find it in him to do it. He more just wanted her back at his side, alive and talking to him about the purpose he might someday pursue. He didn’t want to see her dead body prettied up, that ugly rope wound visible even despite the best efforts made to conceal it.
Briefly he thought back on the blood and dust he had seen when he woke up, but he had chalked that up to the remnants of his dream. It wasn’t until after her funeral that his suspicions began to shift away from that theory.
“Were you awake when that thing happened?”
“Huh?”
“I think someone may have reality-warped our neighborhood,” he overheard one Witch say. “I swear that I saw all my family dead, and I was so terrified, but then it felt like a dream, and they were all alive….I don’t know, maybe I was just having a strange dream, but it seemed so real.”
‘Who would do such a thing!?’ Baal-Mist had heard of reality-warping before, but he hadn’t believed that any Witch or Warlock in their neighborhood had the ability to pull it off. The idea that a Witch’s whimsy might have caused his mother to kill herself infuriated him, and from then on he waited patiently as an investigation into the possibility arose.

“People of our humble village, many of you report having dreams or visions of your family being deceased. One of our own, the Spaeic family, reported that the recently-deceased Selie-Fougie Spaeic wrote a suicide note implying she saw something similar as well. We believe that today we have found the cause.”
The officer held up a piece of paper. “Astineth Eir-Tyuj recently issued an apology over in her own village to all who might have been affected by her reality warping. We believe this may have been an experiment gone awry conducted by her before she left. She apologizes but states her relief at the fact that it caused no fatalities.”
Baal-Mist couldn’t believe it. ‘No fatalities!? How could she say that! She was in the village the night Mamil killed herself! Isn’t that a fatality!?’
As the officer continued on, rage bubbled inside of Baal-Mist. ‘I can’t believe this. She just ran away after she did that. And now she thinks she thinks she caused no fatalities. My Mamil would prove otherwise!’
With that thought on his mind, Eir-Tyuj’s actual apology felt like nothing. Throughout the rest of the officer’s report he was just thinking of how mad he was at Eir-Tyuj.

“Father, you’re not going to kill yourself too, are you?”
“No, I won’t. I have to take care of you, Baal-Mist, and I can keep on going. I don’t understand how anyone could commit suicide…” He began to sound choked. “You already had to deal with losing one parent that way, so don’t worry, buddy, I’m not gonna abandon you. I’ll stop grieving so much. I just need some time…we were married for a while after all….”
“Okay, that’s good. Thanks, Father.”
His father didn’t respond; he had begun to cry, though he was covering his face and mouth as if trying to hide it from Baal-Mist.
‘I bet that woman doesn’t understand what it’s like for us. We had to see Mamil hanging. Mamil never realized we weren’t dead. She killed herself thinking we were gone when she didn’t even know that we were still here. If she hadn’t died, she probably would have tried again from the grief. I bet she would have. Father told me Mamil was a little suicidal beforehand too….but Eir-Tyuj probably never had to see this or deal with it.’
He grit his teeth. ‘It’s not fair! She’s just getting away with doing this to Mamil! And nobody will ever know or care. They’ll just accept her apology because nobody else killed themselves. Well, she doesn’t deserve that. Not at all! If she can warp reality and make my Mamil sad enough to kill herself, I’ll just have to do the same. I’ll show her.’
Baal-Mist was set on this feeling. He was sure his grief would ease with time, but getting revenge on Eir-Tyuj seemed to be the only way he would truly move past his mother’s suicide. When he finally saw the expression on her face that he had seen on his father’s face the night of his mother’s suicide, only then would he feel at peace, feel that justice had been served.
Someday, he would get back at Eir-Tyuj, he felt it–and if he was going to do that, he needed to start training as soon as possible.

—–
Baal-Mist was beginning to feel dejected listening through the recordings he had of the bug he had placed in Sale-Dessu’s house, and was starting to feel hopeless. ‘I’ll never get my revenge if I can’t even get any leads…’
That was, until he heard something strange.
“I really should talk to Apeta about Eul-Bok’s powers. I’m sure she’d have some helpful advice.”
Baal-Mist smirked. ‘Now I wonder, that Apeta, would she happen to be Eir-Tyuj? I should keep an eye on her house in the coming days.’

5.551.Memento to Blooudine

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 551
“Memento to Blooudine”

Asul-Zenza walked outside. The sunlight was bright and harsh, and he recoiled slightly underneath its strength. He tried covering his face with a cloak, but it barely helped.
“The sun’s easy to feel today, isn’t it, Asul-Zenza?”
Asul-Zenza opened his eyes slightly. Through the blur he saw his neighbor, Blooudine Sae-Ah, standing close by, holding a parasol and waving at him. Asul-Zenza waved back.
“Hello, Mrs. Blooudine,” he grunted. “Yes, the heat’s pretty oppressive today…”
“We Vampires aren’t adjusted to deal with the Summer weather. Why are you outside? You’re still young.”
“Other young Vampires were saying that taking the sunlight was a sign of strength. And they set up a daylight event…my parents gave me permission to go, but I–I don’t think I can do it.”
Blooudine sighed. She walked over to him and let him share her parasol. “Thank you,” he breathed.
“Not a problem, Asul-Zenza.”
“Hm.” Taking a good look at Blooudine, Asul-Zenza noticed she was sweating slightly just as he was, even under the parasol. “Mrs. Blooudine, you asked me why I’m outside, well, what about you?”
“My family is asleep right now and I wanted some time alone to my thoughts. I figured going outside would be best for that.”
“I see.”
“It’s more of an excuse than what you had, anyway.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Do you think Vampires will ever be able to take the sun?”
“Some Vampires can. But it’s in our nature to be a little resistant to it. We’re nocturnal! I think the resistance some other Vampires have has to do with the fact that the species have integrated for the most part now and most other species are diurnal. They’ve set up their society around that, and we fall behind because we’re not like them.”
“We aren’t like the other species in a lot of ways,” Asul-Zenza sighed. “Why are we so different from them?”
“We aren’t really. We have a similar skeleton and set-up. There are other avian species aside from Vampire as well. And if you’re worried about the whole bloodsucking thing, it’s just a special talent of ours like how Groundisers can traverse the sand or how Sirens have such beautiful but deadly singing voices.”
“But we also live a lot longer than most of the other species.”
“A trait we share with Groundisers.”
He sighed. “It’s easy for you to see the positivities in this, isn’t it, Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Well, yes. Even if we’re Vampires, we’re as much people as all the other species. We do live a long time, admittedly, but that’s just because our bodies hold up better throughout the years than other species’. And if you see it in the way of being all built off the same base of a Normal, then we’re certainly one of the more Normalesque species out there by looks alone.”
“Not when we go into bat form, we aren’t.”
“That’s a different ballpark. Besides, you’re so worried about our differences–did you know that it’s said back many years ago, Vampires were always in bat form? We are the descendants of Vampire bats, after all.”
“It’s not really that I’m worried about being different from all the others. That’s okay, although I guess I like to be more normal, you know?”
“Hence why you were forcing yourself out into the daylight when your Darseen and Floma are most likely asleep?”
He sighed. “Yes. But it’s not really the way I look. It’s my lifespan. When I grow up, I’d like to travel and see more of the world. I like Vampira and all, but I want to see the world beyond Vampires. I’m just worried about making a friend over in another society. So I’ve been wondering if maybe I should wait until I’m an old man. But when I’m an old man, it’ll be harder to travel, and what will I do before I set out? You’re not really an old Vampire until sometime through the seven-hundreds, aren’t you?”
“Seven-hundreds or eight-hundreds, I forget. But definitely by the eight-hundreds you’re quite elderly. And you shouldn’t split hairs about this sort of thing, Asul-Zenza. You’re still just a child, after all. And you know, it’s fully possible for a Vampire friend to die on you years before you’re an old man. It’s also possible you might die before you ever reach the elderly Vampire ages.”
“I don’t want to think about that, though…and besides, that can happen to us Vampires, who’s to say that if I made a friend of another species that they wouldn’t die before their time?”
Blooudine sighed. “Asul-Zenza, I’ve grown up my whole life in Vampire societies. I’m not good with the goings-on of other species. I spend most of my time around Vampires. I had to get over some prejudices when I was younger. But you need to realize something. We live in times where most societies will inevitably become intermixed-species societies. As it stands right now, the majority of species societies are outlier societies connected to a bigger country such as this one. Nyappon used to be the Catori hub of the world, and now even it is letting other species in through its doors. Life among the other species is going to be a part of daily life in some years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s during your lifetime. You have to learn to not worry about this sort of thing! You’re your own Vampire!”
“I, I know…”
“Besides, we all worry so much about dying we’ve never stopped to consider enjoying the time we have with those who won’t live as long. And you never know what may come after death. But, with all this advice I’m giving you, I might as well give you one more bit that I think you should hear.”
“What’s that?”
“If you’re so worried, befriend someone of another species. Acquaint yourself with one. But never marry one. If you had a ladyfriend of a short-lived species with your mindset I fear what might happen. She might become convinced you didn’t like her. And besides, half-Vampire children can live into the thousands. We Vampires can too, but we usually don’t make it past the nine-hundreds.”
“…”
“But really, don’t worry about your differences with others, Asul-Zenza. If you weren’t any different from any other person you wouldn’t be Ghneckdo Asul-Zenza. And besides, what business do you have worrying about how different you are when you’re a Vampire just like everyone else in Vampira?”
She pat him on the back. “Go on, now. Get back inside and out of this sunlight. A young Vampire like yourself needs to take care of his skin!”
Asul-Zenza smiled. “Thank you for your advice, Mrs. Blooudine! You’re the best.”
Blooudine smiled. “Always the best to you, Asul-Zenza.”

***

Asul-Zenza took a deep breath as he knocked on the hospital room door.
“Come in.”
Peeking inside, he spotted Blooudine, sitting up but looking much worse than she had the last time he had seen her.
His parents had recently sent word that Blooudine had been sent to the hospital. He was told she had cut herself, contracted an infection and become sick as a result of it. Despite her weary state, she still smiled at Asul-Zenza with all the warmth he remembered.
“Mrs. Blooudine, how do you feel?”
“I’ve felt better before,” she sighed, “but this is what happens when you age. I’m not so much as worried about myself as I am about my husband. He has been ill since 2013, worse since 2014 and I might dare say he’s knocking on death’s door now. He fell into a coma yesterday.”
Asul-Zenza gasped.
“I’m not too concerned. We’re both elderly Vampires, and if we go at similar times that’s all the better for me. Still, I want to make sure that you will be alright. After all, you aren’t even one-hundred yet and I might leave you soon.”
“I-I’ve been…managing on my own, Mrs. Blooudine. My child self might have relied a lot on the advice you had for me, but I have plenty of people now. I still have…my parents, and Shi-Bara and her family contact me on occasion. I…I have my book club friends, and Perule-Cheuse, and La-Iin and even Mit-Sun, to a degree….”
He swallowed hard. “So I won’t be alone…”
“I know you’re a grown Vampire, Asul-Zenza. But you have a soft heart. You may still have family and friends around you but that won’t keep you from missing me.”
“…”
“I’ll probably live for a while longer. But I also don’t care if this sickness takes me out. Ideally I’d like for myself and my husband to go on the same day. Though I know the pain that it would bring my family, it would also mean I don’t have to live without him. He doesn’t have to live without me. And our children don’t have to just get over grieving only to deal with another’s death months later. And I’m not scared. I’ve lived a full life and continued on my family line. So I am happy.”
“Please don’t talk about such sad things….per–perhaps both of you will pull through. Just for a bit longer…”
“Asul-Zenza, this happens sometimes. And I’m an old lady. I was when you were a child as well. My closest family is not the youngest, heh. Don’t focus on me. Focus on yourself. Don’t let me bog down your happiness.”
“Then please stop saying such sad things! …you know, it’s ironic in a way. You’re the one who told me that sometimes Vampires lose their other Vampire loved ones before they are too old. And before I met up with you again last year, I figured you were just a relic of my childhood. And soon that might be for the most part accurate…”
“It likely will be, you silly child.”
“I’m not a child.”
“In my eyes, you are. A child who got in over his head and tried to become an adult before he was ready. But you are quite mature in other ways, Asul-Zenza. You do deserve the title of adult in those regards. I’m sure you handle yourself much better around others than around me. But around me, isn’t it that you remember the child you were, hanging on my every word and taking my advice soundly in heart?”
“Hm…”
“So it’s possible that’s the case. But enough about that. Thank you for visiting me.”
“I–I brought a flower,” he said. “A Vampiric Carnation.”
“How lovely…I’ve always loved this shade of red.” She sighed. “Well, I thank you again for the visit. My time or not it’s always a pleasure to see you.”
“The pleasure isn’t just yours, Mrs. Blooudine.” Asul-Zenza sucked in a breath to keep himself from crying. “It’s mine as well.”

—–
“Oh, Asul-Zenza! To what do we owe the visit?”
Asul-Zenza opened his mouth to speak, only for tears to come rolling down his face. He tried to wipe them away, but eventually gave up and hung his head.
“Oh, Asul-Zenza…”
His parents came close to him and held him close. Though Asul-Zenza could no longer keep himself from crying, he bit his tongue to keep himself from wailing even though a part of him was fighting to do so.

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!’