23.631.Bloody Stress

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 631
“Bloody Stress”

The Dslellular home had taken on a strange atmosphere.
For a while now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya had noticed that Dosa-Mina was acting strange. He seemed to be hiding something, and he was jittery and a bit spooked. Dosa-Mina had never been the easily scared type, and it was strange.
After they noticed his cuts, he had started acting even stranger, seeming somewhat lethargic. He wouldn’t talk to them and spent a lot of time in his room. He had become avoidant.
Somehow, how he had started acting after coming home from school yesterday was worse than all that.
“I could’ve sworn I heard him crying yesterday,” Orlin-Aesth said. They had decided not to talk to each other about what was going until Dosa-Mina left for school–and that had been strange in and of itself.
“Dosa-Mina, don’t you have to go to school?”
“…I don’t want to.”
“Why not?”
Instead of responding, he had started to get undressed.
“And he had another nightmare last night. I heard him screaming.”
“I did too. Did you go to calm him down?”
“I did, but the door was locked…I unlocked it, but by the time I got in he was asleep.”
“He hasn’t been screaming much lately. I thought he had gotten over those…”
“What’s going on with him?” Elai-Riya said. “I know he isn’t happy we found out about his cuts, but something changed yesterday.”
“I wonder….oh, hey, Elai-Riya, did I tell you that the Molsheis called yesterday?”
“They did? What about?”
“They were asking if something had happened that Dosa-Mina told us about. Apparently San-Kyung keeps talking about him like he’s concerned.”
“Do you think people are bullying him again?”
“Did he act this bad when people bullied him at Deatrou?”
“No, but then again, he’s stressed out about his cuts.” Elai-Riya gasped. “What if someone at school found out about those!?”
“That’d make a lot of sense why he’s acting like this…” Orlin-Aesth shook his head. “We can’t keep sitting back like this. We need to talk to him. If we don’t do anything, he’s just going to keep retreating like this. I don’t want to see Dosa-Mina like this. I want him to be happy.”
“I do too. But what can we do? He’s always retreated this way.”
“…” Orlin-Aesth cringed.
“Where did we go wrong? No…more like where did I go wrong. You were always attentive and respondent to his needs. All I did was teach him how to hide his problems. Dumped all my stresses about my job onto you and him. I messed him up. I know it.”
“Riya, please! Neither of us knew he was going to end up this way. Stop blaming yourself!”
Elai-Riya lowered her head. “I just wish we knew what to do.”

***

Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya’s conversation had continued on until Dosa-Mina returned home from school, but past that point it had started to go in circles. Neither of them had an answer for Dosa-Mina’s behavior–anything more than speculation, anyway–nor an answer as to how to help him.
When Dosa-Mina came home from school, he wasn’t any better. He kept his head bowed, went into his room, and locked the door.
“I have to do something about this.” Elai-Riya stood up. She walked over to Dosa-Mina’s door and pounded on it.
“Dosa-Mina! Please unlock the door. I want to talk to you.”
“Elai-Riya, that isn’t how you do this.” Orlin-Aesth brought his claw up to the keyhole and twisted it around inside. The door opened.
Both of them startled. Dosa-Mina was sitting on his bed, grimacing at a bleeding wound on his left arm. Both of them were quick to notice the knife lying nearby, covered in fresh blood.
Elai-Riya wanted to exclaim, as did Orlin-Aesth, but he calmed her and they approached Dosa-Mina, who by now had noticed that they came in.
Noticing bandages in his room, Elai-Riya reached for them and set to work patching up the wound.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“We wanted to see if you were alright,” Orlin-Aesth said matter-of-factly, though Elai-Riya could hear his voice wavering. “You looked pretty upset when you came home from school.”
“Dosa-Mina, you can’t keep cutting yourself,” Elai-Riya said. “Look, you opened up an old wound.”
Elai-Riya finished bandanging the wound.
“Dosa-Mina, I know you don’t want to, but we need to talk to you about the cutting. This isn’t just a few near the wrists, this is enough that your arms are almost half red. Please. If you want to hide them, go ahead. I know it would be hard to explain to everyone at school. But please stop cutting. And please tell us why this started.”
“…” Dosa-Mina stared down at the bandages. “Go ahead. Take the knife.”
Elai-Riya stared down in the knife in disbelief, but picked it up and held it close.
“I’ll just find something else anyway.”
Both flinched.
“And there is no reason. I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve had enough explaining to do recently anyway.”
“Dosa-Mina, have other people seen these cuts?”
Neither expected an answer, so they were surprised when he said “San-Kyung.”
“So aside from him and us, nobody else knows?”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
“What do you mean by had enough explaining to do? Has San-Kyung only found out about these recently?”
“No. That doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be alone right now. Go ahead and take the knife. Even if you didn’t I wouldn’t cut anymore right now anyway. I’m fine now.”
“You don’t sound fine.”
“Of course I’m not. But at least I have some relief now.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head.
“…don’t bother hiding your species when you come to school next time.”
They looked at each other.
“Is that what happened? Did someone find out about your species?”
“I don’t want to talk about this!” Dosa-Mina yelled. “Just get out! I’ve told you enough. Nothing you say is going to help. So stop trying to butter me up. Even if I talked to you, it would change nothing. Why don’t you wait until someone else tells you?”
His last words were said with a sneer. Both felt on the verge of tears, but right now they doubted it would help to cry in front of him. They left the room, Elai-Riya still holding the kitchen knife, and only let themselves cry once they were far away from his bedroom.
It didn’t last long. Someone knocked at the door a short time after they started. They opened the door.
San-Kyung was standing there.
“San-Kyung…”
“Dosa-Mina’s home, right?”
“U-um…” Elai-Riya nodded, though she could see that San-Kyung’s eyes were focusing on the bloody knife in her hands. His expression after that point was unreadable.
“It’s good that you came over, actually,” Orlin-Aesth said. “Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
“…”
“San-Kyung, I know you don’t like us, but would you mind telling us what’s going on with Dosa-Mina at school?”
“I don’t think he’d like that.” San-Kyung walked inside. His gaze was still on the knife.
“Alright, I understand. Can you at least tell us if someone’s bullying him there?”
San-Kyung’s expression hardened. “Yes.”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya gasped.
“Hey. You.” He motioned to Elai-Riya.
“If you ever feel like singing, nobody’ll care if your audience includes a blue-gray Catori.”
“Huh?”
“Go ahead and let the Llamaki join too.”
San-Kyung shook his head and went for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom.
“He seems upset,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“I wonder who those two are?” Elai-Riya said.
“I’d like to know the answer to that too. …well, he said we don’t have to disguise ourselves anymore. Maybe we should pay a visit to the school soon.”
“Would that upset him more?”
“That’s the big question.”

Dosa-Mina’s door was already open, so San-Kyung head inside. Dosa-Mina was lying on his side, facing away from him. He was quick to notice the bandage on his arm.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned over. “Why are you here? Did my parents call you?”
“I came here because I wanted to. I saw how you were at school today.”
Dosa-Mina turned away once again. “….everyone knows. The reality of that dawned on me yesterday. Malicerie knows I’m a Werewolf-Siren. My parents and you know that I cut. How much longer until the school knows that too?”
Dosa-Mina sat up. “You know, maybe I should give up like I did yesterday.” Dosa-Mina took off his shirt. He head over to his closet and pulled a short-sleeved one over his head. “Maybe I should go to school tomorrow like this instead. Yeah, that’ll be nice, hearing everyone’s questions, having the school contact my parents…”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“Except this shirt doesn’t really fit. But ah, who cares?” He flopped back onto his bed.
“Nothing matters to me anymore. I just wanted school to know me as San-Kyung’s clingy best friend. I liked that better. But then people started paying attention to me. It’s horrible. I hate it. Not everyone likes being notorious like bitchy Lirako.”
“I don’t care about killing her, you know. It wouldn’t lose me any sleep.”
“Don’t do that. Guess who would be the prime suspect? Not you, me. And anyway if you were found out it’d be jail for you. No.”
“…I’ll get back at her somehow.”
Dosa-Mina sat up again. “I give up. I really do. Like this I’ll only keep making people miserable. Or rather, the people I love. I don’t give a shit about people like Lirako, and she probably doesn’t care about how I feel. So, if you ever feel like dying again, give me a call and I’ll be there and we’ll off ourselves together. I just want my death day to come already.”
He pulled off his bandage and dug his fingers into the injury. San-Kyung sighed. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do for him.
So instead he joined him on the bed. Almost immediately, Dosa-Mina lowered his head, pulled his fingers out of the injury and started to cry.

—–
“Hey, Dosa-Mina…do you want us to pull you out of Malicerie?”
Orlin-Aesth had asked him that question at dinner.
“No. I’d rather keep the damage minimal. But if it’s possible, I’d like to pretend I’m sick for a few days. I need a break from that place.”
“We’ll do it,” Elai-Riya said. “But you have to promise us you’ll talk to us more.”
‘Damn it.’
“I’ll try,” he said.

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31.608.To See the Future–Part 10

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 608
“To See the Future–Part 10”

San-Kyung groaned.
La-Iin looked up at him with a smile.
“Sheesh, you’re still as much of a stalker as ever, aren’t you?” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Following someone to his house like that. You know, there’s plenty of stalking cases where the stalked gets a restraining order after the person keeps coming to their house!”
“San-Kyung would never get a restraining order for me. I am his friend after all.”
“Don’t put it past me.”
“Besides, after last time, I want to have a visit with you that doesn’t end in you blowing up at me! So I figured this time we could talk about evil.” La-Iin sat down next to him, then shooed at Dosa-Mina. “Get out of here! Neutrals aren’t allowed in discussions about evil.”
“Hey, I was here first! And I wasn’t being affectionate at all. I was actually discussing something very important with San-Kyung.”
“Like what!?”
“If I’m not allowed in your discussion about evil, why should I tell you about what me and San-Kyung are doing without you?
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “How dare you!”
“La-Iin, be quiet. Dosa-Mina has a point, we were discussing something before you came here. And in case you don’t remember, your idea of evil and my idea of evil have a few key differences. Namely, I’m a little more realistic than you are.”
“Everyone always says that about me. But when I rule the world, you’ll regret putting me down in this way! Besides, I have my ways to get you to talk even if you’re going to refuse me like that. Oh Dosa-Mina, did I ever tell you about what San-Kyung said about lo–”
“Be quiet!” San-Kyung hissed.
“Luh?”
“It’s nothing!”
Dosa-Mina gave San-Kyung a wary look. “You always say you wonder about me, but this isn’t the first time you’ve shut her up about something. That makes me wonder…”
“Well don’t wonder, because whatever you’re thinking is probably wrong.” San-Kyung sighed. “Alright, I’ll talk to you about evil. But not for long. Dosa-Mina, you can go do whatever you want, just let me placate her so she’ll leave us alone.”
Dosa-Mina glared. “You know, maybe we see a little more eye-to-eye on the whole rival dynamic than I thought.”
“See!? Actually, no wait, maybe that’s a bad thing! I don’t know what to think about you anymore, rival-boy.”
“How you think about me is obvious,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “I’m gonna go inside and see if I can’t help Mrs. Molshei with something to pass the time. You’re welcome to call me out when you need me again, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina head inside, and almost immediately after the door closed San-Kyung gave La-Iin an intense glare. “Thanks a lot! I wanted to hear what Dosa-Mina had to say, but thanks to you that’s going to have to wait!”
“You should thank me, San-Kyung. After all, what I have to say is probably far more important.”
“If you only knew…” He grumbled under his breath.
“Since the both of us are evil, and since we’re likely to work together in the future–”
San-Kyung sighed. “La-Iin, I’m going to ask you something. Sure, you’re my….friend…and we get along well enough. We’re both evil too, like you said. But have I ever said anything about working together with you?”
La-Iin looked away from him. “…no. But why not, San-Kyung!? The both of us together could make a wonderfully evil harmony!”
“I don’t think you understand that what little I know about your plans are a lot different from my plans. What I want to do is different than what you want to do. And like I said, I think about these things a lot more realistically than you do.”
When La-Iin turned back to face him, he was slightly startled by her lack of expression. It was normal for her, but something about it looked oddly cold.
“Everyone always tells me that,” she said. “But I think about these things a lot. I understand that what I want to do isn’t going to be easy. But I know I can do it. I have my lifespan and good powers on my side. You say you’re looking at these things realistically, but are you really?”
“Moreso than you.”
“I don’t believe you! Do you think about every outcome that could possibly happen? Do you consider what would happen if people you need aren’t there for you, if things don’t go your way? I’ve thought about what I might do if I run into adversary and I’m still thinking about it even now! I haven’t stopped formulating my plans. If anything’s unrealistic it’s making one plan and sticking to it completely to the note!”
“I don’t do that!”
“But I bet despite what you’ve said you’ve never considered something like, say, rival-boy getting killed because of what you want to do, have you?”
San-Kyung’s eyes widened. “You didn’t, did you!? I rest my case. You need to think about these things from all angles, San-Kyung. If you don’t, then I’m being more realistic than you are!”
“Did you say all that just to prove something to me!?”
“Maybe. But it’s a lesson you need to learn!”
San-Kyung wanted to retort, but found he didn’t quite have the words. When he thought on it, as much as he hated to admit it, La-Iin was right. There were a lot of things that could happen no matter how much he tried to prevent them, and if he didn’t plan for those things his ultimate plan could end up going down in flames. It would mean nothing if he wasn’t prepared.
But how could he even begin to imagine a future without Dosa-Mina, or a future where he was stuck with November as it was?

***

“Look, Dosa-Mina. The people of Bledger spend every day wondering when the next onslaught will happen. And soon it won’t just be the people of Bledger. It’ll be everyone in the world.”
“Yeah, people are getting pretty scared nowadays. When I go out into the thick of it you can see they’re just wondering what you’re going to do next.”
“They should be worried. It’s their fault this is happening.”
“More like your fault. I’m here to support you, but you have to admit it’s your fault.”
“I know. But there’s the part of me that still blames them. Besides, they’re going to have a month of peace now…”
San-Kyung sighed.
“…this world’s a lot different than I thought it would be.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I thought I’d be able to keep up endless onslaughts, or at least, I’d have enough power so that when I took a break, nobody would bother me, but…that can’t really happen now.”
“It is pretty amazing that you were able to establish so much dominion over Bledger, though.”
“What’s the point? I thought I would be happier getting revenge, but now instead, I’m stuck in this stupid dead-end. I can cause chaos if I want, but I always have to go into hiding afterwards. And I have to up the ante in November. It’s nothing like I imagined at all.”
“Well, there’s still some things in life you like, right? Just because things are different now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. I mean, this is what you wanted! Mostly…”
“Maybe, but…I guess I was wrong about the way I wanted to go about it. When you told me Operation Reboot’s goal was impossible, I should have stopped there instead of pushing on like I did….I guess the world cares enough to screw over someone who’s trying to screw it over the way I am.”
“Huh?”
“Well played.”

“Hello, San-Kyung,” Del-Kyuus said. “How are you?”
“Why even bother asking that? Do I look fine to you? Do you think it’s fun to constantly be on-edge? They won’t even honor my request to be placed in solitary confinement. Saying it’ll radicalize me or something…”
“Solitary confinement sounds pretty shitty, San-Kyung. I don’t think you’d want to go there,” Dosa-Mina said.
“I’d rather be there than be stuck with a bunch of evil failures!” San-Kyung yelled. He sighed. “I guess I’m one of them, now…”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung, don’t feel down. You’ll be out of jail soon-ish, and then maybe you can focus on something else.” Salsh-Era said.
“I’d love to just do that and leave it at that, but do you realize how much more I hate the world since being put in here? Oh, it’s the system of justice, what a crock. I bet this system was set up by evil people. First, trick the goody-goodies into thinking it’s for them…then torture everyone you see as inferior to you.”
“San-Kyung…”
“I thought if I failed, I could just go back to normal. But now that’s not going to happen. I don’t care what you guys say. Every day in here is like a never-ending November, I’m always scared of what’s going to happen next, and…”
San-Kyung turned away from them. “Just go for today. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina gave each other concerned glances, but as far as San-Kyung was concerned, seeing that was a lot better than the faces he could only imagine they’d make if they saw him break down.
In here he wanted revenge more than ever, but now he was scared that if he tried to take that, it would only extend his nightmare.

“You know, San-Kyung, it’s funny how you used to say that you were the one thinking more realistically. Because who’s being realistic now?”
San-Kyung glared at her. La-Iin wore a self-satisfied expression–it seemed like that was the only expression she wore around him nowadays. He struck his hands to see if perhaps the power suppressants had worn off at least a little, but there was no reaction, and instead strangely-colored blood dripped down the side of his hand.
“Shut up. I’m sick of hearing your voice.”
“Well, then, you’ll just have to hear it more!” La-Iin got off the bed she was relaxing on and curled up next to him.
“You have your stupid world. How come you can’t just leave me alone?”
“Because, San-Kyung, I always involved you in my plans. And I know you. Sooner or later you’ll crack under pressure and you’ll realize you want to help me. My intention is not to make you suffer, I hope you know. Not like the other people I’m ‘keeping watch’ over.”
“Yeah, well, good luck not making me suffer when you’ve got me chained up like this! You gave me power suppressants! You always leave me in here! You won’t even tell me where my parents or Dosa-Mina are! How can you consider this not suffering!?”
La-Iin sighed. “You just don’t understand, do you. Well, if you don’t understand, then I’m not going to force you to understand. But I will tell you this. Until I know for sure that you’ve cracked under pressure and you’re going to help me, I’ll keep you this way. Because currently, you’re too much of a danger for me to do otherwise.”
“How!? I have power suppressants!?”
“You won’t forever. And if I let you free they’ll wear off eventually. Trust me, San-Kyung, I know what I’m doing. And if you consider this suffering then you’d better do your best to crack under pressure as soon as possible, because I’m not going to let you out until you do.”
San-Kyung struggled against the chains, but to no avail. La-Iin walked off, still wearing a self-satisfied smile but seeming just slightly irritated by the turn of events.

San-Kyung took a breath.
It was wonderful. He was finally here. From this point in Bledger, anything he did would cause severe damage, and with Dosa-Mina’s discovery, it would be at the level of his power-surge ability. There was a thrill coursing through him, and he wasn’t quite sure what he should make his first action.
Wasn’t quite sure, but already had the perfect idea.
Vines snaked up from the ground until they stood high above him, and San-Kyung struck both hands and faced them. He reached out his right hand to touch a vine, and just as he did–
“STOP WHERE YOU ARE!”
Before he could react, something hit him in the back with such a speed and intensity that he was surprised it didn’t go straight through his shoulder. He gasped in pain and his flames almost immediately died down, though embers that had made it onto the vines set them alight. Water balls hit the vines and put out the fire before it could spread too much.
San-Kyung turned around. Narwhaltae officers stood at the front, flipper-hands pointed outward. They heaved sighs of relief. Several officers were behind him, all wearing intense expressions, and one went right up to him and cuffed him.
“We’re gonna have to thank that Mr. Dslellular for this,” one of them said. San-Kyung gasped. “If it hadn’t been for his report downtown Bledger would be up in flames!”
“Can you imagine the casualties?” Said another.
“It’s not just Mr. Dslellular we should thank. We wouldn’t have pinpointed him without his parents’ help.”
San-Kyung was dragged off to a police car, but he barely noticed it. He barely noticed the weakness that was washing over him too. He was too absorbed in the hurt he felt at hearing what the police officers had to say.
He had been betrayed by those he had trusted the most.
As the police drove off with him in their car, he couldn’t begin to imagine what he was going to do past this point. If he was under suspicion for attempting a fatal attack, and his own family and best friend had turned against him, what could he possibly do now?

“Are they firing at us!?”
“What do you think!? Keep going! We’re almost out of their line of sight!”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina maneuvered their way across Bledger. San-Kyung grit his teeth. ‘Everything was going so well! What tipped them off to our location?’
He didn’t have much time to think on that–he had to focus on getting him and Dosa-Mina out of the range of the bullets. But the bullets only seemed to increase in number the further they went, and San-Kyung noticed that not all of them were flying past them–one was headed straight for Dosa-Mina’s shoulder.
Desperate, he moved him out of the way with levitation.
And just then, a bullet hit him in the back of the head.
San-Kyung dropped both himself and Dosa-Mina to the ground. He checked for any sign of life, but the horrible wound in Dosa-Mina’s head was all the proof he needed. The bullets were only getting closer now, and if he didn’t keep going he would be hit sooner or later.
But if he left Dosa-Mina’s body, they would only riddle it with bullets.
San-Kyung wanted to escape, or to stay there and cry, but what overtook his sadness and fear was anger, and he instead turned to face the onslaught of bullets. He dug his nails deep into his right hand, and aside from a wince, ignored the pain as best as he could. Finally, when his hand was busted up well enough, he shot off a massive flamethrower at the source of the bullets, and after that no more bullets came.
He collapsed next to Dosa-Mina’s body. He hadn’t wanted to cry, not consciously anyway, but the pain and the reality of what had happened–what he had caused to happen–was hitting him all at once.
From then on, Bledger became known as a ‘murder hole’–and that reputation was soon to spread across all of Vaelyn.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung gasped and looked up.
“San-Kyung, are you okay?”
“You look scared, son.”
“What’s wrong, San-Kyung?”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina all had their eyes on him, and he was scrambling for something to say. He could tell by the looks they had what kind of face he was making.
“I–It–it’s nothing.”
“Obviously it’s not! What’s wrong?”
‘What am I supposed to tell them? It’ll sound stupid whatever I say!’
“…I was just thinking about if things don’t go right. Th–that’s all.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus didn’t seem convinced, but Dosa-Mina’s expression was understanding.
“I really do need to put more thought into this,” he whispered to himself. “Damn it, I can’t believe La-Iin was right. But I’m not going to let those futures happen. I’m not.”

That night, San-Kyung had a nightmare. When he woke up from it, he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down.
‘Nothing like that will happen if I work hard enough. But now that I think about it…maybe I really have been going about my plans the wrong way.’
He took another deep breath. ‘Damn it, La-Iin! I thought she was going to be the key to unlocking my true form, but all she ever does is make me doubt myself! I need to drop her soon. But how am I going to do that?’
Frustrated and scared, he tried to get back to sleep regardless. Sleep eventually came, but it was fitful.

“San-Kyung, is something wrong?”
“Just thinking about what to do if things go wrong, that’s all. And thinking more on what I should do…am I going about this the right way? I don’t even know anymore…”
“Well…I think the most important thing you could do right now is figure out what ‘right way’ will make you most happy. Or at least, I’d sure like to see you happier!”
“Yeah…you would say that, wouldn’t you?”

29.606.To See the Future–Part 8

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 606
“To See the Future–Part 8”

Age 8:2nd Grade
Age 9:3rd Grade
Age 10:4th Grade
Age 11:5th Grade
Age 12:6th Grade
Age 13:7th Grade
Age 14:8th Grade
Age 15:9th Grade
Age 16:10th Grade
Age 17:11th Grade
Age 18:12th Grade & Graduation
Age 19:??
Age 20:???
Age 21:????

Ai-Reia heaved a sigh.
“At the rate I’m going, I really am going to graduate at age eighteen…I won’t even be going through puberty by then, unless I end up precocious in that field too. I suppose there’s college, and here in Vaelyn, I will be a legal adult in a few months from then, won’t I? But, hm…”
“You talkin’ to yourself, sis?” Reuf-Bu asked. He smirked. “If you don’t want us to think that you’re crazy, then you shouldn’t do that with the door open! Whoa!” Reuf-Bu flinched. “Don’t threaten me like that!”
Ai-Reia was tempted to throw the cup in her hand, but she kept from doing it. “Don’t ever say something like that to me again. You make things harder for me than they need to be.”
“Sorry…well, uh, if you need me, I’ll be in the playroom, doing a puzzle…”
“I’m not interested, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
Reuf-Bu sighed. Ai-Reia turned back to her diagram. ‘My future’s a long one. There’s no telling what could happen over the span of hundreds of years. The world will change, people close to me will die, I’ll grow older…I have plenty of time to think, but I’m only eight and already in the second grade. It may be plenty of time to think, but I’m already doing something most Vampires don’t do until they’re older!’
Ai-Reia sighed. ‘Still, there’s so much to learn about the world, and with my knowledge I’m sure there’s some field I could pursue that would take up a good portion of my life. The question is, what am I going to do for a potential nine-hundred years if I’m likely to graduate high school at eighteen? I suppose there’s always the off-chance I’ll be held back a grade…’
Ai-Reia’s stare hardened. ‘But then there’s also my recovery plans. Those are an integral part of my future too. The way I handle myself as I’m growing up could be key to how my future plays out…’

***

“Hey, look over there. Isn’t that Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Vaelyn’s one and true prodigy! She’s only fifty years old and the discoveries she’s made so far are amazing! Did you hear that her first major discovery was at nineteen!? She wasn’t even going through puberty yet!”
“Yeah, I’m pretty proud of her. She’s something Vaelyn has that other countries don’t! Take that, Manemica! Take that, Wiencei! You other countries have nothin’ on our Vampiris!”
Even sitting far away from the group of people, their volume made it easy for Ai-Reia to hear what they had said. “A lot of people certainly think positively of you, Miss Vampiris.”
“Yes, well, I really don’t understand all the hype. Personally, I find it much more amazing when people work to be able to understand these things. I just happened to be blessed. I find that a lot less interesting.”
“Are you kiddin’ me!? Have you seen yourself!? With all your discoveries and inventions, how could you say that you haven’t put in a lot of work! Pat yourself on the back every once in a while, Miss Vampiris! You deserve it!”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Well…no, maybe not.”
Since graduating from Malicerie back in 2026, Ai-Reia had focused a great deal of her time on studying and learning more. It seemed like an average enough schedule. She spent time doing what she wanted to, such as being with her family or with Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima, and spent the other half of her time studying.
When she was nineteen, however, she had discovered a medicine that could potentially regenerate parts of the body, to be used in keeping people alive longer. A test found that she was correct, and since then the medicine had been used for several people–including her brother Reuf-Bu, who had suffered a near-fatal car accident years later but was now as spry as he was in his thirties.
Since then she had discovered a wide variety of medicines, artifacts and had once helped turn around a guilty sentence for an innocent a few months before her execution. She was considered an inventor for the amount of new discoveries she had made. Ai-Reia loved being able to make vuyong off of studying, especially since it seemed there was still so much left for her to learn. The attention wasn’t always great, but it was just one caveat to getting to do what she wanted to.
And yet, despite her successes and her happiness, there was always a pervasive feeling nagging at her–a small part that kept her happiness from being complete even despite the fact that she had so much to be happy about.
‘I’m successful and I’m doing something I love! My family’s in good health and I’m considered the best aunt by Reuf-Bu’s children…’ That thought often tugged at her, but Ai-Reia already knew what was making her so unhappy.
“Ai-Reia!”
A familiar voice hit her ears, and she caught sight of a Catori and Birdmix walking towards her.
“It’s been a little bit since we last saw each other, hasn’t it?” Ai-Reia said.
“Yes, but that’s alright. I’ve been busy with the family business.”
“And you know how Catoris work. I have so many grandkids now it’s hard to keep an eye on them all…”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima still looked as happy as always, and in them she could still see how they looked when they were teenagers. But it was obvious they were aging. Shuera-Kaizima’s fur was flecked with grey and Im-Dei had visible wrinkles. The two’s slow walking didn’t go unnoticed by her either. It was quite evident that her friends weren’t as young as they had once been.
“I can imagine. How many grandchildren do you have by the way?”
“Nineteen. And it sounds like five more are on the way…”
“I only have one, but I would love to have more. You know, Ai-Reia, when you’re old enough to consider it, I think you’ll really like being a mother.”
“Well, I’m still a little pubescent, so I think it should wait for now.”
“You’re definitely mature enough for it. I could never imagine doing all the amazing things you’ve done!”
“Yes, we should get together again soon, maybe for tea?” Im-Dei said.
“Yes…yes, that sounds nice.”
“I’d love to do it now, but you’re busy working on a little AI project, aren’t you?”
“Erm, y-yes, that’s right.”
“And I have to work with the family business,” Im-Dei said. “But we should definitely get together soon. It was nice to see you, though!”
“Yes, it was nice.”
“Here!” Shuera-Kaizima handed her a small container. “I made a little something for you to eat! A Kokohara family recipe!”
“Take care, Ai-Reia. We’ll see you soon.”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima walked off. Ai-Reia stared down at the meal. It seemed to be made from a mixture of grilled tofu and beef. Her eyes started to tear up.
‘They’re so good to me, even now. But whereas I’m finishing up puberty, they’re elderly now…in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be that many years before they’re buried. And I’ll be there. I’ll be there when their children are buried. I’ll be there when their children’s children are buried. And how many more generations, how many more Kokoharas and Fyuoris will I see go before I finally look like they do? Will I see any more go after that point?’
It was a recurring thought in her mind now. She knew Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei weren’t likely to just suddenly pass away anytime soon, but that day was approaching fast. And then it didn’t matter how much success she had–her dear friends, her support, once they were gone things wouldn’t be the same again.
And she would have to live that way for centuries past that.

***

“Look, it’s Vampiris Ai-Reia.”
“Isn’t she the child prodigy?”
Was is really a lot more accurate. Just look at her picture nowadays! She was doing so great. I heard in college she really excelled! But when that Cahongyun lady became vice president, geez, she just lost it.”
“Kinda sad, really. I’m sure she could have done great things if she hadn’t gone so crazy…”
Ai-Reia grit her teeth and covered her ears. She couldn’t bear to hear what other people were saying about her. It only reminded her that much worse had been said about her–and that had come from her own friends and family.
“Ai-Reia, why’d you let this happen to you?”
“I can’t believe you’ve gone so crazy!”
Nowadays she spent most of her time on the streets. Staying in her apartment for anything aside from eating or sleeping was painful. It felt like she could hear the rumors flying around the other rooms. Now she missed the notoriety she had had as a child. She would have killed to go back to that old reputation–namely La-Iin, if she had the choice.
Of course, if she did something like that, it would gain her a completely different kind of notoriety.
It didn’t matter anyway, because the mere idea of La-Iin being in such a high position of power would have made her unhappy even if everything else in her life was going fine. But at least then she would have her family by her side; now she had nothing.
‘Maybe I should just leave Vaelyn. Then I might be happy, somewhat…start a new life somewhere else. Maybe in Wiencei or Nyappon…’
“Well, look who it is.”
Ai-Reia looked up. She met La-Iin’s icy glare. “It certainly has been a while, Ai-Reia. I’ve heard some interesting things about you since then.”
“You…!” Ai-Reia grit her teeth. She grabbed La-Iin by her collar, but to her surprise, La-Iin did not react. “Damn you! Do you understand how much grief you’ve caused me!? I thought a stupid little stalker girl could never be so dangerous, but I suppose I was mistaken!”
“Don’t blame your problems on me.” La-Iin pushed her away. “From what I’ve heard, you ended up in this position because you couldn’t stand the idea of me becoming vice president.”
“You know why. If you were any other person, it wouldn’t matter. But I know you, La-Iin. This is just part of your plan to rule the world!”
La-Iin smirked. “Smart girl.”
“You realize I can tell people what you’ve said now, right!?”
“Who will believe you? Nobody takes you seriously anymore, Ai-Reia. And that is your own fault. Your paranoia was your undoing. And you want to blame that on me? What a joke. Be willing to admit when you’ve failed, otherwise it just looks awfully pathetic.”
“You–!”
“You have hundreds of years left, anyway. If you’re so desperate to fix your life, take the chance you have now before I end up taking all of the world under my command. Well, I don’t have time to be talking to you. I have stupid stuff to do, and plans to formulate.”
She spread her wings and flew off.
Ai-Reia watched her go. She could still remember when La-Iin had been little–back then she had thought she had been harmless. Later, she had grown to think that she would do harm, but never could she imagine that her worst fears had a chance of coming true.
In despair, Ai-Reia trudged back to her apartment early, tossing around in her head the idea of ending her own suffering. ‘It’s not like anyone would care anyway. They all think I’m crazy now. Best do that instead of kill that over-pompous bitch…’

—–
‘The future has several possibilities depending on what path I take. I can’t make a plan for nine-hundred-and-something years down to the seconds, but I can try to prevent myself from ending up in a bad situation. My future is half entrusted to me, after all. I must try my best to avoid anything as bad as that other scenario happening!’
She sighed. ‘Of course, a part of the first one is inevitable…but if I can handle myself, then even that might not end up as bad as I imagine it to be.’

19.596.To Where Do You Head?

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 596
“To Where Do You Head?”

Eul-Bok sighed as he tidied around the house. “Father may be good at keeping the house clean, but he really doesn’t pay attention to when things gather dust, does he?”
“…not that a particular color of liquid can tell you whether you have a good potion or a bad potion, but typically people are dubious of black potions…oh, well, I actually meant we Witches and Warlocks are, I wouldn’t know about the general population…”
“Hm?” Curious, Eul-Bok followed Sale-Dessu’s voice. “What’s up, Father? Are you talking to yourself?”
“Why would I do that, Eul-Bok?” When Sale-Dessu turned to face him, he caught sight of the real reason he had heard his voice–La-Iin, sitting across from Sale-Dessu, with Bes-Isa sitting on the table propped up by a book stand.
“You didn’t hear them come in?”
“No.” Eul-Bok narrowed his eyes. “Why must you two come here almost every single month!?”
“Because Sale-Dessu is our ally and we exchange information.”
“Do we?”
“I’m not sure I’d call that an exchange, seeing how one-sided it is,” Eul-Bok scoffed.
“Eul-Bok, be nice to them. I wouldn’t have let them in if I wanted them to go away.”
Eul-Bok sighed. “There’s no arguing with you on this subject…” He sat down next to him. “You do realize you haven’t given Father nearly enough time to finish looking into that thing you wanted from him, right?”
“Our trip here today was for different purposes.”
“Yes, she was asking me about potions,” Sale-Dessu said with a smile. “I was telling her about potions, but I somehow got sidetracked onto Warlocks not trusting black-colored potions. But it isn’t just black-colored potions. Grey potions aren’t usually trusted either.”
“Hm.”
“Didn’t you already talk to them about potions?”
“Some things need repeating. Besides, he didn’t tell me everything.”
“Potions do have a lot of unique properties, so there’s a lot to go over. And some aren’t made perfectly. They can backfire even if the Warlock’s intentions were good. La-Iin, do you remember that potion I brought back with me last year?”
“Huh?”
“The one I had to dilute?”
“Certainly you remember near-threatening him for a sip of that potion.”
“Oh. I don’t really remember what happened after that, though…”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Where did you get that potion, anyway?”
A curious expression crossed Sale-Dessu’s face. “…on my way back home…”
“What?”
La-Iin’s forehead wrinkled. “I don’t get it. You don’t seem like you like going outside, but you used to go places. If you don’t like leaving, then why did you?”
“I had…things I needed to do.”
“Things?”
“La-Iin, I know we’re allies, but you don’t tell me everything about what you do, do you?”
“…” La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“Please don’t look at me like that…I don’t want to tell you everything about what I do. I might not have much experience with people, but I know most people don’t go around telling their allies all of what they do every day.”
“But when you got that potion, you made me watch Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok shuddered. “I had almost forgotten those horrible days…”
“Speaking of…! Maybe you can convince her, Eul-Bok. Something tells me she won’t listen to me no matter how much I protest.”
“Why don’t you just threaten her right back, then?”
“I couldn’t do that!”
“I’d love to, Father, but I don’t have any rebuttal. Also, you weren’t all that clear on what you were doing when you talked to me about it, either.”
“That’s strange. I’d at least think that if he didn’t want to tell us, he would tell you. He trusts you so much, after all.”
A cocky smile crossed Eul-Bok’s lips and he puffed his chest out slightly. “It does seem rather suspicious that you want to keep it a secret so badly…from what I’ve seen you’re not good at hiding these sorts of things. After all, me and La-Iin might not know what happened to you when you were a kid, but we have a good idea that it wasn’t pleasant.”
“Please stop…”
“So if you’re hiding this, what sort of dark secret is behind it?”
“Dark secret…” La-Iin grinned. “Sale-Dessu, you don’t need to hide dark secrets from me. Hiding your evil from your ally is stupid. I’m evil, after all. You just need to say the word and I promise I won’t tell anyone you killed anybody. And I don’t like to make promises.”
“What!?”
“You really think poorly of Father, don’t you!?”
“On the contrary, Eul-Bok. I may have mixed feelings about murder, but that’s only because I think keeping people alive to suffer is much worse, and therefore, preferable.”
“And also because she has the sappiness of a half-Normal.”
La-Iin flicked Bes-Isa’s forehead.
“You’re sick, you know that!? Father, why do you associate yourself with someone like her!?”
Sale-Dessu’s head was lowered. Both La-Iin and Eul-Bok stared at him in confusion as he began to mumble to himself.
“What?”
“Father, are you okay?”
“I think he’s officially lost it. Hey, maybe this is the part where we pushed him so much to his breaking point that he’ll come out and spill everything!”
“Really!?”
“If you two did that to him, I…I….I’m not going to be held responsible for what I do to you in return!” Eul-Bok’s tone was thick with rage.
“Please, Eul-Bok, don’t threaten them.” Sale-Dessu sighed and faced them again. “Fine. I’ll tell you where I went off to. It wasn’t anything like what La-Iin said…I would never go away and kill someone. That’s awful.”
“Damn. It would have been excellent blackmail, now that I think about it.”
The look Sale-Dessu gave Bes-Isa in response terrified her. “I just didn’t want to explain it because I feel it will require more explanation than just saying ‘I went here’….”
“What do you mean, Father?”
“La-Iin’s right, I have gone out despite my reluctance to do so. I don’t like doing it–you can ask Eul-Bok, it makes me very uncomfortable…but I’ve done it before. Once I had planned on taking Eul-Bok with me to various places that specialized in V-Puppets to see if I could learn more about them. When I brought Eul-Bok to life, I didn’t know as much as V-Puppets as I should have.”
“But what about when you got the potion? I don’t even think La-Iin remembers what you’re talking about. That all happened so close to Magica Cavintus.”
“Huh?”
“See?”
“I–I know. I was just trying to prepare myself…I was looking for something when I went out that time.”
“And what would that be?”
“Something important to me…a relic from my past, you could say. Some things happened in the area I went to, so I was unable to use my powers and I had to be careful about even navigating that place…but in the end, the trip was worth it, at least for me.”
“That doesn’t explain anything.”
“This is why I didn’t want to tell you about it,” he groaned. “You won’t be happy unless I tell you exactly what it was I was looking for. It’s a part of my past. If I brought it up to you, I would have to go into that, too.”
“For someone who hangs as open as a book you’re sure tight-lipped on the exact details of your past.”
“You’d understand, if you knew…” He shook his head. “Anyway, the place is far away and it wasn’t feasible to just teleport there. That’s why it took me so long, and I went there to see something from my past. That’s all.”
“We’ll never get to hear about your past, will we?”
“It’s best if you don’t. Really. Aside from the fact that I don’t want to tell you, it’s better off if you don’t know…a-anyway, why don’t we get back to talking about potions instead?”
“You two bother Father too much. He’s doing his best to move past all that stuff, and all you two do is dredge up painful memories!”
“Eul-Bok, please.”
“I can’t stand it though, Father! It’s not fair, the way they’re treating you!”
“You might say that, but what wouldn’t be fair is what I would do to you if I had bodily autonomy.”
“Please, Bes-Isa,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Let’s just go back to potions…there are actually some black-colored potions that aren’t harmful, but a lot of them were used for “curses” in the past.”
“Why did you say curses like that?”
“There really isn’t anything exactly like the curses you hear about in books. It’s more like an….infection.”
Sale-Dessu began to look dejected after those words. Eul-Bok glared at La-Iin and Bes-Isa. Neither of their expressions made it possible for him to tell what they thought about his reaction, but to him it didn’t matter.
‘Father, somehow I have to get you to realize that having La-Iin and Bes-Isa as your allies is a bad thing. All they do is bring you pain…’

—–
“Um, Father…”
“Yes, what is it, Eul-Bok? Do you want to try eating again today?”
“No, I’d rather not, really. I just wanted to ask you something.”
“What’s that?”
“Well…I feel like kind of a hypocrite asking this, but I don’t really remember what you were going there to see….what was it again?”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “It’s fine. You know already some of what happened, anyway. I went there to see my Mamun. Or if you prefer to hear it this way, your Apeta.”
“O–oh….”
“Unfortunately, me and Apeta couldn’t take her remains with us, but perhaps that’s for the better, considering what happened afterwards. We would have lost her. She’s safer back there, where they don’t allow powers. When I went, they were even going so far as to give everyone power suppressants.”
“Why don’t they allow powers?”
“In part due to my Mamun’s murder. The other part….well, I don’t know the other part. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make you think about something so painful.”
“I wish I could have brought you with me that time, but they’re very staunch on the rules,” he sighed. “Maybe someday now, if we can disguise you well enough…”
Sale-Dessu turned back to his soup. “Oh, I burned it…”
“I’m really sorry, Father.”
“Don’t be. It’s in the past now. And the past is something I’m still trying to leave behind…but I’m trying, and that’s what important.”

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.