25.541.A New Light to the Situation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 541
“A New Light to the Situation”

“So, we’re actually visiting Sale-Dessu for once? Color me surprised.”
“We just visited him the other day,” La-Iin reminded her.
“Yeah, but we stayed for like two seconds. You sound as if you have something you actually want to talk to him about this time.”
“I do. All this romance around me has had me wondering about something.”
“So you figured the best person to go to would be the reclusive Warlock whose friends are a little girl and a doll. And who considers a glorified doll to be his son.”
“Sale-Dessu is pathetic, but the reason I’m visiting him for this has nothing to do with his patheticness. Besides, he’s my ally.”
“I suppose he’s mine as well. What do you plan on saying to him, exactly?”
“You’ll see.”
La-Iin knocked on Sale-Dessu’s door. It wasn’t long before the door opened and out peeked Sale-Dessu, his hair still maroon and his face still bespectacled.
“Really, what experiment are you doing that makes you look like that?”
“I’ll explain later,” Sale-Dessu said. “Hello, La-Iin. Is that all you came here to say?”
“No. I have another reason for being here, too.” She walked in, Bes-Isa in tow.
“Hey, Father, do you want me to clean out your test tu–” Eul-Bok glanced in La-Iin and Bes-Isa’s direction and sighed. “Oh, it’s you two.”
“They’re guests, Eul-Bok. Besides, we haven’t been getting many visits from them this year.”
“That’s been fairly pleasant. You two are nothing but nuisances and wastes of Father’s time.”
Sale-Dessu glared at Eul-Bok, who cowered away from him. “I’m sorry, Father, but they have caused you a lot of trouble!”
“I’m sure you’ve caused him even more trouble before and after you got your autonomy, you little dickhead.”
“Can we not have any fighting?” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Um, La-Iin, what did you need?”
“I’ve been having some strange situations lately, and it made me want to ask you about something. You have and can make a lot of potions for all sorts of things, right, Sale-Dessu?”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “Though I can’t always guarantee they come out right. I also know a good place to buy potions, but I don’t really like going there…”
“Well, you’ve got me now if you need someone to fetch it, but do we have the vuyong?”
“That’s a subject for another time. Why do you ask? Is there a specific type of potion you wanted to know about?”
“Yes. I wanted to know if you can make love potions.”
Sale-Dessu blinked.
“What?”
“Why would you want a love potion at your age, La-Iin?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Morbid curiosity. And I don’t exactly want it. What I want would be better off happening naturally, eh heh heh…but I was curious as to whether or not it actually existed.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Not in the flowery way you might see in some books, no. It’s not a potion that makes you fall in love, but it can simulate the feelings. You’ll know consciously it’s a lie, and a lot of the time it can cause other problems as well. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve never had any use for a love potion nor has anyone I’ve known, so I’ve never made one. But in my potion books, they say that’s what it’s supposed to do, is simulate the feelings of being in love.”
“Hm.”
“Also, I’ve heard that the feeling of being in love is dubious as to who it’s towards. Sometimes it happens to the potion-maker. Sometimes it happens to the first person they see. But most of the time it isn’t contained and the effects are present constantly, or at least towards every person the person affected lays eyes on.”
“That would not be helpful,” La-Iin said dryly.
“I heard of attempts to make a love potion that actually makes the drinker fall in love, but I heard the person used for the experiment suffered a degree of brain damage not long after drinking it. Since that is unethical in most places, it probably won’t happen any time soon.” Sale-Dessu blinked. “Err, was there anything else you wanted to know?”
“You know an awful lot about love potions, Father.”
“Well, I got curious about them after my Mamun told me they’re nothing like in the books…”
“I doubt it’s anything suspicious with someone who’s as much of a shut-in as Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Was there something else?”
“Yes. This was the most important part. Negative potions exist too, don’t they?”
“Certainly. Potions that give you diarrhea or destroy your organs…there are probably more than these than there are of ones that work properly because negative effects often happen when a potion isn’t made properly. Although destroying your organs is a fairly rare side-effect.”
“Luckily that never happened to you, Father!”
“Well, I hardly ever drink my potions, so–”
“But are there potions with effects that are negative of the normal effect?”
Sale-Dessu blinked. “What do you mean by that?”
“I think she means like an anti-potion.”
“Exactly. Love potions are fine and all and I might be tempted to use one if they worked, but they don’t and I don’t care. What I really came here for was an anti-love potion. I need one desperately, so tell me they exist!”
“Anti-love potion? I don’t think anything like that exists!”
“Well, what about a hate potion!?”
“Hate potion!?” Sale-Dessu sighed. “La-Iin, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’m certain that if an anti-love potion exists out there it has the same kind of effect as the love potion. It’s either the potion maker, the first person they see, or everyone. Besides, potions usually wash out of a person’s system after some hours. That’s what they’re designed to do. So even if there was an anti-love potion, it wouldn’t last forever.”
La-Iin glared at Sale-Dessu, biting her lip. Sale-Dessu was surprised to see tears building in her eyes.
“Why do you feel so strongly about this!?”
“I suppose her rival in love must be getting their feelings reciprocated.”
“It’s not that. It’s nothing like that. It’s just a bad and stupid situation and…” La-Iin dug her fingers into her hair.
“She’s frustrated because there’s a man who most likely is in love with her mother.”
“Is that all? Why would that be so bad, La-Iin?”
“That man is not my Dami, and if Mama falls in love with him I won’t acknowledge him! My Dami is my Dami and no other man is!” She took a breath. “Fine then. If there’s no anti-love potion, then if Mama falls in love with Haner I want to live with you from now on.”
“What!?”
“Didn’t you just say your, er, “Dami is your Dami”? Why not stay with him?”
“It would be so hard with Mama watching me. Although maybe I could through a loophole in staying with you.” La-Iin’s shoulders slumped. “But if she was with Haner, she might not care anyway. She might just have a new daughter with Haner and replace me.”
Seeing La-Iin so dejected, Sale-Dessu felt conflicted. He had never seen La-Iin in such a state.
“It’s alright, La-Iin. I’ve seen you and your mother before. I don’t think she’d want to replace you.”
“Maybe not, but even if she didn’t that doesn’t change the Haner problem. Maybe he wouldn’t pretend to be my Dami. Maybe it would all be fine, but I would still have to live with that horrible man!”
“Whatever did he do wrong to you?”
“I pick my enemies as much as I pick my allies! And anyone who’s a threat to any of my plans is automatically my enemy!”
“She feels quite strongly about this.”
“I can tell,” Sale-Dessu mused.
“I don’t know what to do. Maybe everything would work out, but if there’s one interference in my plans, who’s to say the rest won’t go toppling down with it? I already have enough stupid romantic problems as it is.”
“At seven?” Eul-Bok questioned.
“Well, I don’t know how to help, La-Iin. But maybe this will make you feel better. Just because one plan doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean they’ll all go toppling down. I know that from personal experience. All too well, in fact… But you do have both of your parents, and I don’t think they would stop loving you. Especially not your Mamun–I mean, mother.”
“Dami is more especially than she is. She already gets annoyed with me all the time.”
“I get annoyed with Father too,” Eul-Bok said.
“I also get pretty annoyed by you. Not that we have a mother-daughter relationship, anyway.”
“And there’s something else as well. When plans don’t go right, that’s when you learn to adapt. Sometimes your life plans will have to change. Things might work out for you and maybe your mother won’t feel the same way. But if she does, then you just adapt.”
“I have changed my plans before.”
“And you have alternative options for others.”
“I never expected a big change like this, though. I was prepared for other things.”
“Just try your best to prepare yourself for whatever happens. It might work out. And if it doesn’t, you have a backup plan.”
“That won’t keep me from hating Haner,” La-Iin growled. “Even if I went to live with Dami, what would I do about that? Mama would be with Haner if I wanted to see her.”
“Well, maybe you could find something to like–” Noticing the glare La-Iin was giving him, Sale-Dessu backpedaled. “Err, well, maybe you could learn to tolerate him. Maybe you and your mother could agree to keep him out of the scene. I don’t know what to do about that, La-Iin.”
“Geez, you said you’re evil, didn’t you? Just plan to give him an extra layer of torture.”
La-Iin’s expression became blank, but soon a wicked grin spread across her lips.
“Great, now look what you’ve done.”
“That is true,” La-Iin said. “I hate thanking people, but I’ll have to thank you two anyway. You’ve given me a fairly obvious perspective on this situation. I’ll try and prevent it at all costs, but there has to be another way to manage it. If I dwell on something stupid like this all my other plans will be worthless.”
“It’s good to view things in a positive light,” Sale-Dessu told her.
“Still, I don’t want to be around Mama right now, so…”
“You’d stay whether or not I told you to leave,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “So go ahead and stay.”
“Good. Because now that you’ve told me all about those potions and the negative potions, I want to hear a lot more!”

—–
“It’s getting fairly late. You should head home now, La-Iin.”
“I guess.”
As La-Iin stood up to leave, Sale-Dessu slid a small item towards her.
“What’s this?”
“Consider it a Warlock charm. We use these for good luck over in Witch and Warlock societies.” He smiled. “Best of luck to you, La-Iin.”
La-Iin grabbed the charm. “You make for a good ally, Sale-Dessu. You’ll be very useful in the future.”
Sale-Dessu breathed. “I’ll be seeing you, La-Iin. Best of luck to you always.”

Baal-Mist smirked to himself.
“I don’t think this plan is completely down the drain just yet. Hopefully next time he’ll move closer to that room. That yelling was pretty curious….”

24.540.The Ability to Reach Out

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

23.539.Dami’s Advice

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 539
“Dami’s Advice”

As soon as she arrived home from school on Tuesday, La-Iin set her mind to calling Asul-Zenza. After both the delivery of the mincemeat buns and the strange person she had seen before heading off to Neigghed, she felt as though a talk with him was both necessary and long overdue.
Before heading to the phone, she checked around the house to make sure that Mit-Sun was still inside. She spotted her reading a book in the kitchen, and she glanced up and waved at La-Iin before turning back to the book.
“Mama?”
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“Do we still have any more mincemeat buns?”
“I think we might have one left over. You can have it with dinner if you want.”
La-Iin nodded. “Wouldn’t it be easier to read that book in your bedroom?”
“Hm? Why? I figured you were going to go upstairs and talk to Bes-Isa, and I’m not sure how well I could focus if I overheard you two talking.”
La-Iin gave a quiet growl. “Well, I’m not going to go upstairs. I actually planned on playing out here. And you being out here ruins that.”
“Then I’m going to counteract: why can’t you play in your room?”
“You won’t win, Mama. Even I get bored of playing in my room all the time.”
“I have another counteract as well: since when do you care about disturbing me while I’m reading?”
La-Iin froze. She wracked her brain for an excuse. “Since I get in trouble a lot when I annoy you.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “If you ask me, you haven’t been getting enough punishments for all the trouble you’ve been getting into.”
“Why don’t you just go and read in your room!?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “There’s no reason to get so angry at me for reading out here, La-Iin. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Besides, with the way you’re acting it makes me think you’re up to something suspicious. That only gives me more reason to stay out here.”
La-Iin stared at her blankly. ‘How do I get her out of the room? If I call Dami she’ll just stay so she can listen in on our conversation. And with what I want to talk about, that could be bad…’
A third reason nagged at La-Iin and pressed her to try harder. She began to try and think of something that would convince Mit-Sun to relocate to her room.
“You think it’s suspicious, but not everything I talk about is. I wanted to call Fer-Shi and discuss a secret with her. And you know Fer-Shi–she’s a goody-goody. But I just couldn’t get rid of you even for that.”
“A secret? Are you sure it’s nothing nefarious?”
“You know Fer-Shi, Mama. If it was really bad, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
“I won’t tell.”
La-Iin growled. “Fer-Shi really wants it to be kept a secret…even if you say you can keep a secret, what do you think I’ll do if Fer-Shi finds out that you found out anyway!? Haven’t you ever really wanted to keep a secret for a friend!?”
Mit-Sun blinked. “Maybe?”
“So you should understand where I’m coming from, Mama.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Fine, I’ll go upstairs. But the moment I hear something crashing or burning down here, I’m coming down.”
“You obviously don’t think very highly of me.”
“You haven’t exactly given me much reason to. Look, I know you aren’t as bad as you could be, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about what you’re going to do next. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and go upstairs.”
Holding the page of her book, she stood up and head out the kitchen. Once La-Iin heard a door upstairs close, she dialed Asul-Zenza’s number and hoped for him to pick up.
“Hello? Might this be La-Iin or Mit-Sun?”
“Hello, Dami.”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin! How nice to talk to you! I’m glad you called, actually. There has been a lot for me to go over. Oh, but maybe I should keep some of it a secret.”
“You can tell me if you want to, Dami, but I have a few things I want to talk to you about first.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do. Go ahead and we’ll talk. I have plenty of time. I just got back from my only commitment for today.”
“Well, the first thing I want to say is, did you make those mincemeat buns yourself?”
“You got the mincemeat buns? Did you like them?”
“What do you think?”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Glad to hear it, La-Iin. Yes, I did make them myself. They’re based on a recipe I tried on one of my travels. And I know it likely would have been a smarter idea to come over and personally deliver the buns myself, but I figured Mit-Sun wouldn’t allow me to come over just to give you a small snack. I hope they were all in good condition.”
“They were fine and delicious, Dami. They have me craving mincemeat once again when I had been focusing on blood…but I also wanted to ask, were you there when I was going to Neigghed?”
“Hm? Oh, did you see me? I arrived a little late because I head out later than expected, but I saw you off when you head on the bus. By the time I caught sight of you you were already heading on to the bus, and I didn’t want to call out to you and interrupt all that was going on. I’m sorry we missed each other.”
“I just wanted to make sure. I wish I had seen you before I got on the bus.”
“I do too, but well, it’s happened already. Did you have fun in Neigghed?”
“It was fine, but what was more fun was what happened afterward, heh heh…but that’s not what I wanted to talk about!”
“A shame. I’m curious about what happened afterwards now.”
“Well, I’ll have to tell you later. Because I have a…situation.”
“Hm?”
‘Do I tell him it’s Mama or should I pretend it’s a stranger?’ La-Iin felt conflicted as to whether or not she should face the situation head-on; she wasn’t sure what kind of reaction Asul-Zenza might have if she broached her darker suspicions about Uil-Cur’s motives. ‘Would Dami confront him himself? Maybe not, but I shouldn’t take the chances.’
“I know someone who’s in a stupid situation. A really stupid one. They have a friend who’s obviously suspicious. I think he either wants to kill her or he’s in love with her!”
“…huh?”
“It’s complicated, Dami. But this person I know is really stupid and doesn’t notice either one. And I’m worried about both options. If that other person wants to kill her then that’s bad for me, but it’s also bad for me if he’s just in love with her because what if she falls in love back?”
“I can understand where it might seem like a problem if he wanted to kill your friend, but how is it a problem if he is in love with her?”
“It’s an interference in my life!”
“Is this Fer-Shi you’re talking about, La-Iin?”
“I’m bound to confidentiality for now, Dami, since I don’t know all the situation. But either option seems feasible. He’s super-suspicious so I think he might want to kill her. But when I talked to him the other day he started blushing like he was in love.”
“People can also act suspicious when they are in love. I’ve seen this first-hand. It could be he is just in love with her.”
La-Iin sighed. “That’s still bad for me. So what do I do?”
“Why not let things take their course? I see how it could be an interference in your life but there is no guarantee that she would like him back. And after all, maybe he doesn’t want to kill her or is in love with her. Perhaps he’s just shy.”
“I really seriously doubt that, Dami.” La-Iin sniffled. “I just don’t know what to do. I really hate this guy!”
“La-Iin, that’s all the advice I can give you for now. I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry you’re upset about the situation, but it might work out, and really, there isn’t anything you can do.”
“There has to be! Dami, this man is staking out Mama! Do you see how this could be a problem!?”
“What? Someone is attracted to Mit-Sun?”
“Probably!”
Asul-Zenza was silent for a short while. “I…I don’t know what to say, La-Iin. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation either…really, Mit-Sun can do what she wishes, but I can certainly see your concern.”
“If he kills her or marries her it’s still a problem for me either way! So what do I do!?”
“Um…well…”
“La-Iin, I hear yelling. What’s going on?”
La-Iin gasped. “I’ll have to talk to you later, Dami. Mama will overhear us if I keep talking!”
“What? Wait a second, La-Ii–“
La-Iin slammed the phone down.
“None of your business, Mama.”
Mit-Sun huffed. “I just want to know why you started yelling. Were you fighting with Fer-Shi?”
La-Iin shook her head. “No. It was just an intense debate. But now I know more than ever that…”
She stopped herself from continuing on. “Read out here if you want to. I’m going to plan in my bedroom.”
As La-Iin walked off, her wings flapping in anger, Mit-Sun couldn’t help but wonder what had gotten her so riled up. She tried to sit down and concentrate on the book, but all that kept coming back to her mind was the memory of La-Iin in such a bad mood.

—–
“Dami? Mama took Choungetsu out, so I have one more chance to talk to you about earlier.”
“La-Iin, I really don’t know what to say. If he shows signs of wanting to kill her, you’ll have to put aside your pride and call the police on him. But if he’s merely in love with her, I’m not sure what you can do about her reciprocating or not.”
“Mmnh…”
“I’m as unhappy as you are.”
“Why?”
“If Mit-Sun did reciprocate this man’s feelings, they could potentially get married. You would become his step-daughter. The idea of another man playing a part in your upbringing makes me furious. But I really don’t see what either of us can do about the situation. For now, you will have to watch from the shadows.”
“…I don’t want to stand by idly though, Dami. If I can, I’m going to find a way to stop either outcome from happening. I’m in control of my own future. And I’m with you–I’m not going to let another man pretend to be my Dami!”

22.538.Asul-Zenza’s Travel Journal

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 538
“Asul-Zenza’s Travel Journal”

“Hey, Asul-Zenza, you ever considered keeping a travel journal?”
“No, not at all. Why?”
“Well, you travel to a lot of places pretty often, right? If you keep a travel journal just think of what it could add to the after experience. You’d know what places you went to, what kind of things you saw, and you’d have your own writings to back up what you tell your friends and family. Plus, it’s not like a camera where you’d be taking pictures all the time. All you’d have to do is write down what happened during the trip during your down-time.”
“Hm…well, it does sound like a good idea.”
“Not only that, but if you ever wanted to make a book of your travels, you totally could. Or you could make a little book for your daughter!”
Asul-Zenza smiled. “It sounds like a great idea, Niser-Zanta. Next time I travel I’ll have to remember to bring a notebook with me!”
“Here.” Niser-Zanta tossed Asul-Zenza a blank notebook. “When you’re in a book club there’s a good chance you’ve got a blank notebook on hand. Or at least one with a lot of blank pages.”
“Thank you, Niser-Zanta. You have my word that you’ll be the first person who gets to read my travel journal.”
“Thanks, Asul-Zenza. Break that promise, though, and you owe me Llamaki blood.”
“Llamaki blood costs an awful lot of vuyong in these parts…”
“Exactly!”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Oh, Niser-Zanta. Well, I’ll just have to make sure I really keep to that promise.”

***

Ever since learning he could use the in-progress device for his own means as well, Asul-Zenza had been feeling that he had freedom than ever before. His fears of being lost forever to his family and friends had mostly disappeared, save for some concerns that something might happen to him before the device reached the general public. Since then he had been traveling almost non-stop, but mostly to close-by locations. Recently he had decided to stop by someplace further away.
“They say you have to make sure to visit the right part of Aena if you want to travel here,” he mused to himself. “I hope I’m over the right part and not the restrictive one.”
Asul-Zenza searched the cities underneath him. They seemed to be mostly devoid of people who were not clad in uniform. Close by he could spot a large prison.
‘Ah ha…this must be the wrong part.’ He continued on flying, checking around for a spot he could land. ‘I hope they don’t spot me. This part of Aena couldn’t possibly be as bad as Dasdoria, but still, I don’t want to take that chances!’

Asul-Zenza spent much of his time flying before he found the part of Aena that was more densely populated. Around him he saw happier faces in a multitude of species, most wearing traditional Aeness clothing. It was quite an interesting sight.
‘Amazing…’
“Excuse me, sir. Do you have the right to be here?”
Asul-Zenza flinched. Behind him stood a bespectacled Lizardfoot woman who stood slightly taller than him. More intimidating than her looks was the tone in her voice–that and the fact that he could barely understand a word of what she said.
“My…apolo…gies…Aeness is….not my strong…lengig.”
“Huh?”
“I might be able to handle this,” a Vampire man nearby her said. “Hello there, sir. What my colleague wanted to ask you was if you are visiting Aena legally. Flying directly into Aena is prohibited, I hope you know. It’s safety reasons, nothing personal.”
“Um…” ‘Oh shit, I was so desperate to get away from that other part of Aena, I forgot one of the most important parts of traveling…Vaelyn has really spoiled me.’
“Certainly!” He said cheerfully, hoping the man didn’t notice his nervousness. The Lizardfoot woman gave him a look, but the Vampire man seemed to believe him.
“Well, then, welcome to Aena! And try to brush up on your Aeness–lengig isn’t going to earn anyone’s approval here.”
Asul-Zenza breathed a sigh of relief, which set the woman glancing over her shoulder at him one more time. ‘I should really go back and enter Aena the proper way…’

Asul-Zenza glanced around Aena. All around him there seemed to be people and buildings. ‘Really a technologically advanced place they have here, isn’t it? It’s nothing compared to Vaelyn, though.’ He dwelled back on memories of a trip to Silcoulle and the amount of technology he had spotted there.
‘I wonder what species societies might be attached to this part of Aena?’ His curiosity about the fact was overwhelming, so he took to the skies and began to fly around the more rural parts of Aena. In a patch of trees he spotted a society of Lizardfeet–and from his distance he felt he could see the bespectacled Lizardfoot from earlier among the group.
Along his flight he spotted a Siren society and a Goathoof society. The Goathoof society in particular interested him–they seemed to be holding a strange ceremony that entailed holding their meat up to the sky, chanting and watching as a Goathoof who stood in the center of them all raised a strange stick to the sky. ‘I wonder what it all means? Species societies can certainly be strange places. Not that I’m one to talk about such things.’
As he flew away from the rural areas, he began to wonder: ‘Would La-Iin like to participate in Vampire society traditions? Maybe someday I should ask her about it. I doubt Mit-Sun would participate in such celebrations with her. Maybe one day I should invite her, Ei-Tio, Shi-Bara and her husband to my house and we can all celebrate together! I could even invite my parents.’
The idea excited him. He reached for the travel journal and jot down the note. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, this is for keeping record of my travel, not for silly notes.’

Asul-Zenza was overwhelmed. Three days into his trip to Aena, he had decided to visit a restaurant for something to eat–by now he had grown sick of the food he had brought with him from home, and he was ready to try some Aena cuisine.
Unable to read any of the signs, he had ended up at a place that sold a variety of different buns. Although he couldn’t read what they were, the images made it clear that there were buns filled with vegetables, meat, blood, a mixture of the three along with various other fillings, including one containing what appeared to be mincemeat and one containing another bun.
The buns were fairly small and inexpensive, so Asul-Zenza decided to order many and try a few flavors. When he bit into the mincemeat bun, he immediately thought of La-Iin. ‘She would love this. I wonder if I could find a recipe for it.’ His personal favorite, however, was the blood and meat bun–it satisfied a craving he wasn’t even aware that he had.
Once he had finished the buns, he relaxed and sighed. ‘I need to find something better to eat next time I go out.’ Still, he felt quite satiated and reminded himself that even though he had only eaten buns, he had still gotten his fill of vegetables and meat.

Navigating Aena without a full understanding of the language had proven to be harder than he expected. He had figured he would at least be able to understand what the natives were saying, but except in the rare occasions he met a Vampire who also spoke the Vampire language, he was almost entirely lost. Everything sounded like a half-sentence to him.
“I should have asked Xelshy-Mitter to come with me. Then I’d have an Aeness translator…”
“Sir, you seem lost. Do you need directions?”
A Cicadin man had approached him, a concerned expression on his face.
“My Aeness is no good.” ‘At least I have that down…’
The Cicadin man nodded. He beckoned to Asul-Zenza and pointed him in the direction of a shop. ‘Is he trying to sell me something?’
The man led the way into the shop, which Asul-Zenza quickly realized was a bookstore. He flittered across the bookstore, retrieved a book and went to purchase it, then handed it to Asul-Zenza. Upon opening it, he could see it was a translation book from the Vampire language to Aeness.
He checked for a phrase within the book. “Thank you!”
The Cicadin man nodded, then flittered off. ‘How nice! This will definitely make my travels a lot easier!’

With the help of the Cicadin man, Asul-Zenza had been able to translate a few things by using the book. He still struggled greatly, but the slight relief the book provided him was more than enough. Through it he was able to understand what some of the buildings he was entering were, and he was able to go to an Aeness play–though he barely understood what was going on once the play actually started.
One other thing Asul-Zenza had been able to participate in thanks to the translator was a flying competition held in a more modern part of Aena. Most of his opposition in the comptetion were Birdmixes, and Asul-Zenza felt almost certain that he wouldn’t be able to out-fly them–but in the end, he had ended up in second place and had received a strange Aeness trinket as a prize.
When he stopped at the hotel for the night, he checked the date on the calendar. ‘I suppose I should be heading home soon. This is a little long for me to be visiting some place I can’t understand the language…maybe I should stop by Silcoulle again, or Neigghed, maybe. Didn’t Mit-Sun say that La-Iin would be going to Neigghed soon? Hm…’
As he prepared for the night, the travel journal caught his eye. He picked it up and read through it–it only contained a note about an Aeness translation and the mincemeat bun note. Remembering Niser-Zanta’s words, Asul-Zenza prepared for bed, then relaxed and began to write down all that had gone on during his travels.
‘This is much easier to understand than the whole trip,’ he joked to himself.

***

“Geez, Asul-Zenza,” Niser-Zanta chuckled. “You shouldn’t have gone there if you can barely understand the language!”
“Yes, and you were taking a risk not knowing which parts of Aena are safe to go to. New laws may have been passed in the past few years but there are still several restrictive parts,” Lise-Mara reminded him.
“You should’ve taken me! I can speak Aeness!”
“I know. I was regretting not taking you, actually.”
“Still, it sounds like you had a lot of fun over there. And those buns sound delicious. Hey, maybe someday all four of us should stop by Aena for some buns.”
“I think there might be a bun place over in Vaelyn, but I don’t actually know. Either way, that Cicadin man sure was nice to you!” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“He certainly was. Without his generosity I would not have done a few of the things I did in my later days. As fun as that travel was, however, I think I’m going to keep myself contained to Vampire societies and Vaelyn for the time being. i might be able to understand some other languages, but I’d rather just stay close.”
“Not all the Vampire societies are close. The Manemican Vampire Society certainly isn’t.”
“You know what I’m talking about, Niser-Zanta.”
“I know.”
“I agree with Niser-Zanta that the idea of making your travels into a little book for your daughter sounds sweet. You should continue keeping track of your travels.” Lise-Mara said, handing the book back to Asul-Zenza.
“That I will. After all, it combines two of my favorite things in the world–traveling and making La-Iin happy. And speaking of making La-Iin happy, that reminds me of something else I wanted to do for her…”

—–
“Something came for you in the mail, La-Iin.”
“Really?”
“Yes, really. It’s from Asul-Zenza. Who else would it be for?”
“Choungetsu, maybe,” La-Iin said. “It smells good. What is it?”
“Open it. Geez, I sure hope he didn’t send food through the mail…”
La-Iin held up a bun. “What is this? It smells like mincemeat!” She crammed it into her mouth and smiled. “It is mincemeat!”
“A mincemeat bun?”
“Try one, Mama!”
Mit-Sun took a nibble. “It tastes homemade…”
La-Iin’s smile became wider. “Dami’s goodness is one of the few good blessings out there in the world.”
“That sounds pretty uncharacteristic for you to say.”
“Hm?”
“Never mind.”

21.537.Evil and Logic

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 537
“Evil and Logic”

“Someone seems pretty happy. Was the school trip better than you thought it would be?”
“It has nothing to do with the school trip. That was fine enough, but it has to do with what happened after the school trip. That was truly amazing!”
“What happened after it? All I know is that woman was really pissed with you when you got back and now you’re in trouble.”
“I don’t care that Mama’s pissed with me because I’m even more pissed with her. And anyway it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy because San-Kyung has been in such a bad mood lately I almost forgot how fun it could be to spend time with him!”
“I’m surprised you thought, for a moment, that spending time with San-Kyung wasn’t worth it. You’ve certainly thought a lot about spending time with him in the future, down to spending so much time with him you end up with FOUR children…and I’ve never asked, what would you do if, say, you ended up with two sets of triplets?”
“I would jump that hurdle if it happened,” La-Iin said confidently. “But anyway, Bes-Isa, do you want to know about what happened or not?”
“Sure, why not? It isn’t as if I have anything better to do anyway. Even if I DID, you being grounded puts several dents into that hypothetical plan.”
“Well, then, I’ll tell you all about it. As you know we were on a school trip and we came back in the afternoon. And…”

***

As soon as the bus stopped in front of Malicerie Public School, the teachers set to work on waking all the students who had fallen asleep on the way back. It was a difficult task, for not every student took so kindly to being woken up. When Mr. Chensu tapped San-Kyung awake, he was shoved away in response.
La-Iin was woken by the sound of Fer-Shi being woken, and she got out her seat immediately. The students started to crowd out of the bus and made it nearly impossible for La-Iin to get out. Once the path was more clear, she hopped out the bus and nearly landed on her face.
“That was idiotic,” San-Kyung said.
“I can fly, you know. If I was really going to hurt myself, I would have just flown.”
“You could’ve, but I know you, La-Iin. You’re not exactly known for having the best laid plans.”
La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. “At least I plan out how to rule the world! You never do!”
La-Iin’s shriek caught the attention of nearby students, who looked on curiously all except for Fer-Shi and Dosa-Mina, who seemed slightly embarrassed by her outburst.
“What are you two talking about?” Questioned Mr. Chensu.
“None of your business!” Snapped San-Kyung. La-Iin smirked. “Ooh, look who’s getting in trouble now.”
San-Kyung turned around, dropped to his knees and whispered in La-Iin’s ear, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your ideas don’t tend to be on the logical side. You could have fallen from the bus so fast you didn’t have time to start flying. I might not be able to fly but I’ve read up a lot on it.”
“Well, like you said, you aren’t able to fly, so you don’t know that for sure. And my plans are just fine.”
“Says you.”
“Do you want to prove me wrong?”
San-Kyung seemed ready to say no. “Unless you don’t think you can.”
“Challenge accepted!”
“Pff. You’re so easy sometimes.”
Never call me easy. Our friendship doesn’t mean I don’t still find you annoying, La-Iin. Let’s get our stuff off the bus before we do this.”
La-Iin nodded. The two head over to Hyungdarou to retrieve what they had brought on the trip.
“Arguing with La-Iin?”
“What did it look like?”
“Arguing. You know, maybe this fake friendship will end up falling apart on its own as opposed to you admitting it was fake.”
“Don’t say that so loudly!”
“I can’t believe you were arguing with San-Kyung.”
“Our relationship isn’t peachy-keen all the time, Fer-Shi. But that’s what makes it interesting. Besides, that argument gave way to something I’ve been wanting for a long time now, heh heh heh…”
Fer-Shi backed away. “…oookay. Well, I think I’m just gonna head home immediately after I get my stuff.”
“You do that. I, on the other hand, have a mission to complete!”

La-Iin and San-Kyung head off Malicerie school grounds and to the closest place they could find that was devoid of people. La-Iin noticed that San-Kyung checked behind himself several times.
“Why do you keep doing that?”
“I was checking to see if anyone’s following us. It does help to check behind yourself sometimes.”
“I have good hearing on my side, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung huffed. “You know, for a little girl, you can be pretty arrogant.”
“You can be arrogant too! It’s a sign of our compatibility.”
“We’re not here so you can be disgusting. The second you say anything more about the two of us together we’re quitting this little experiment and I’m heading home.”
“My mouth is shut.”
San-Kyung came to a stop underneath a roofed clearing.
“You know, San-Kyung, if there’s anyone I trust with my plans for world domination, it’s you. After all, in the future, we’ll–err, never mind…”
“Hmph. Well, your plans don’t matter if they’re not going to work. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, I can’t tell you all the most intimate details just yet because they’re not completely planned out. But tell me how this sounds. For a little while I’ve been tossing around the idea of creating an army of V-Puppets to assist me in taking over the world!”
“…you want to take over the world with an army of dolls.”
“V-Puppets can be more than just dolls! I made a clay doll into a V-Puppet once. I wonder what happened to her?”
“Tell me, La-Iin, does this sound smart to you: a whole bunch of soft or easily breakable items flying at a group of people with powers on their side and potentially armed. Sure, you’d stay safe, you probably wouldn’t be hurt from the venture but what makes you think that’s a smart idea?”
“…”
“I thought so.”
“Good call, San-Kyung. But I have more ideas than that babyish one I came up with when I was a toddler.”
“A lot of your ideas sound like they lack an army that isn’t comprised of yourself and I’m guessing me as well.”
La-Iin looked away. “That’s where you’re wrong, San-Kyung. I have ideas for armies of people. I would trap the people first of Bledger, and then of all of Vaelyn in cages and when it came the time to take over more of the world, I would use them as my army! They’re expendable anyway, so it wouldn’t matter if they died. Everyone who needed to live would stay at home or next to me on the front lines.”
“An army of people who are probably weakened from disease and lack of food? And if too many of them die you don’t have an army anymore.”
La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. “Since when do you plan world domination that doesn’t involve the only perpetrator being you!?”
“My plans are a little different than yours, La-Iin. I’m not interested in discussing them right now, but it’s not the kind of world domination you’re looking for. In your case you might need an army. I strive for different things because I’d rather handle it all myself.”
“It’s the same here. I want to cause suffering by my own hands!”
“And you want me there too.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“People who rule entire portions of the world usually have some sort of army to handle most of the violent and bloody battles for them. You, on your own, would face a massive opposition.”
“That is again where you’re wrong. I have the most overpowered ability any species could ever have. If I drink the blood of another species, I can use their powers for a short amount of time. And I can increase that time by drinking even more blood! And it might even make the powers stronger! With enough blood I could probably handle them all on my own.”
“Where would you get enough blood to make it last long enough to take over the world, or at least a portion of it? What species’ powers would most benefit you for a given area? Would the powers be strong enough to handle the opposition? Would you take into account which species most populates the area you’re going to so you can expect which powers will be used against you? And can you fly high enough to avoid anything they might fire at you? Your plan could work, but it requires a lot of thought that judging by your expression, you didn’t put into it.”
“I put lots of thought into my plans,” La-Iin said, her tone emotionless. San-Kyung rolled his eyes. “Apparently that wasn’t one of them. Look, that sounds like it could work better than using an army of weaklings or V-Puppets, but you still need to put into account also where you would get the blood and you’d need to know how much you need in order to handle the situation. If you make one misstep, then it could cost you.”
“That is good advice. Luckily for you I was putting plenty of thought into it. I just haven’t been able to test it out so much. Maybe you’d be willing to loan me some blood–”
“No.”
“Damn it.”
“Your goal of world domination is large-scale, La-Iin. It does require a lot of thought. Have you ever considered that historical and modern-day dictators put a lot of thought into what they were doing?”
“No, I never considered that. And you know why? Because they failed badly. They stopped at one area of the world!”
“Not all of them did. Just the ones that didn’t often died, at least in the modern day.”
“You know, I have been looking for holes in my plans, San-Kyung. You act like I don’t think, but I’m thinking about these things almost each time I get free time.”
“Yeah, well it’s not my fault you didn’t realize they would fall apart before they started.”
“Even you have to admit the blood one is pretty good.”
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t have an unfair ability like that. Wish I did.”
La-Iin sighed. “I wish Vampires could transfer their Vampirism like the Normals of the olden days thought. Then I would do that for you.”
“What good would that do me?”
“Well…I’d have to put more thought into that.”
San-Kyung sighed.
“Alright, then, San-Kyung, one more thing. What do you think about the plan of keeping it contained to Vaelyn until another country shows a sign of weakness?”
“It could be a false flag. You might live a thousand years but it might not happen. There could be a mutiny within Vaelyn–ever consider that? Would you really have enough power suppressant to keep so many people sedated long enough to prevent them from fighting back?”
“I would suck their blood too!”
“That doesn’t mean it would work. And some of the stuff I’ve heard about power suppressants leads me to believe that wouldn’t do you any good. In fact, it’d be the reverse. And have you ever considered what would happen if multiple countries or hell, even one country invaded your Vaelyn? Populated by weaklings in cages with only one person at the fighting helm? You’d be overtaken. Especially since your plan doesn’t involve any weaponry whatsoever.”
“Does yours!?”
“That’s none of your business. Also, one other thing: you’d probably have to use power suppressants to keep the people of Bledger from rising against you, but what would you do if you needed them as an army or to suck their blood like I said before? That would only mess you up. It’s the biggest flaw I’ve found.”
La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. San-Kyung was both confusing her and frustrating her. “Well, nobody’s really gone over to North Vaelyn!” La-Iin gasped. “I know. I’ll use nuclear weaponry! Along with my powers it would mean that nobody could stop me! There has to be something! North Vaelyn is full of weaklings! Come on, San-Kyung! It’s worked before! What about Dasdoria?”
“You’re just scrambling now. But you have a point about Dasdoria. The issue is, who really knows what’s going on in their government? First go and find out if it’s run by only one person. Oh wait. There are powerful guards who keep people from escaping. They might not always succeed but I heard their success rate is pretty high. Besides, those are still only contained to one area…”
San-Kyung began to walk off. “You do have a point about it being hard, San-Kyung. But I have a long lifespan! I have been putting thought into it and studying evil history. And with your tips I think I’ll have an even better chance. But you told me how stupid all my plans are–how come you never told me yours? What makes you think your plans will work?”
“I told you, my plans are a little different than your ideal of total and complete rule over the world all by yourself. But I’m not interested in discussing them with you. I’m not going to have you stealing my ideas.”
La-Iin giggled. “You think I would steal your ideas.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you.”
“Even though you berated me a lot, this was fun, San-Kyung. But I’ll show you that my plans can work.”
“Not that V-Puppetry plan, though. Never that V-Puppetry plan.”
“I know that one was stupid.”
“Yeah, well, you do your worst. I plan on one-upping you, but I’m not going to be alive forever. If you keep messing up the world past my death then good on you. The world doesn’t deserve to be treated well.”
La-Iin blushed. “Ooh. Every time I wonder how I could be such an idiot to think about sharing part of the world with you you remind me why I like you.”
San-Kyung grimaced and took off at a high speed. “See you tomorrow, San-Kyung!”

—–
“It sounds like a lot of it was San-Kyung telling you you’re an idiot. And I kind of have to agree, your little world domination plan has a lot of holes.”
“Hearing it from you makes it sound bad. But I don’t care. He gave me a little inspiration and I like spending time with him. Mama yelling at me felt like nothing compared to that joy.”
“You’re sickening.”
“You can say whatever you want, but at least I’m not stupid.”
“So you say…”
“And I have matured. When I was five you heard how I talked about San-Kyung. Now I realize I went about it a little wrong. Though even I can’t resist a good chase every now and then.”
Bes-Isa sighed. “I guess that is one thing I’ll have to give you…you do seem more genuinely in love with him than you did when you were five.”
“I’m glad to hear you say so, Bes-Isa!”

20.536.The Weekend School Trip–Part 2

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

18.534.Animosity from Suspicion

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 534
“Animosity from Suspicion”

“Mit-Sun, you look awfully happy today. What’s the occasion? Or, are you just happy because you are?”
Mit-Sun giggled. “It’s nothing, really. Just, I forgot how much fun going out could be. Having to take care of La-Iin, I haven’t been able to do much for myself lately. When we hang out together I get to go places La-Iin probably would never agree to go. Keeping her under wraps is hard.”
Uil-Cur scratched the back of his neck. “Always happy to be of assistance, Mit-Sun. My siblings told me I could be refreshing, but I never thought that would extend to another adult!”
“You can be pretty fun, Haner. So I want to ask: would you like to come over for dinner again tonight? I know La-Iin will hate it, but she’s been resisting all my attempts to bond with her lately. I really don’t think inviting you over again is going to make things any worse.”
“A-are you sure about that, Mit-Sun? She was pretty harsh towards me last time I came over.”
“La-Iin’s like that, but damn it, she can’t control who I make friends with as much as I can’t control who she makes friends with. I seriously don’t know what she has against you. She said something about male Sirens once, but I doubt she’s met another. I know you guys can be pretty rare.”
“It’s hard to think I’m technically somewhat rare. But I suppose that also comes from being an individual!”
“So, what do you say? Want to come over again? I could use a break from all her animosity and there’s not been much to do around the house lately.”
Uil-Cur gave a small smile. “Almost anything you ask me I would accept, Mit-Sun. I enjoy my time with you. I think you are…well, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“That’s sweet, Haner. Thanks. You’re a pretty great friend too.”
Uil-Cur began to flap his wings rapidly to calm him down. ‘Just because she smiles at you so much, it doesn’t mean anything! Quit getting your hopes up!’ Still, he couldn’t help but feel slightly excited at the sight of Mit-Sun’s casual smile.

***

“You seem pretty steamed up, La-Iin.”
“I am steamed up! I can’t stand it when Mama goes to spend time with Haner! Either she’s stupid or slowly she’s falling for his wiles. Well, either way she must be stupid, because if she’s falling for his wiles she’s delusional! If his wiles were so great I would be in love with him!”
“That’s….disturbing, to say the least. And that begs the question: if another man had really good wiles, would you like him better than San-Kyung?”
“No way, Bes-Isa. San-Kyung is my one and only. Mama is a fool. If she’s looking for what true love looks like, she should be looking in my direction.”
“Nobody who was in their right mind would take love tips from a stalkerish little kid…don’t look at me like that, La-Iin! I’m not saying your little thing for San-Kyung is little kiddy, I’m just saying you’re creepy.”
“I’ve heard what you’ve said about keeping girl slaves before. If anyone is creepy, it’s you!”
“Well, doesn’t that make me more evil!? I want girl slaves for my own use…heh heh….but you want San-Kyung to reciprocate your feelings and work equally by your side! What the hell’s with that!?”
“You should understand by now if you know me any, Bes-Isa. Besides, I would be in a higher position of power over San-Kyung anyway. But this wasn’t about him! I haven’t been able to make any progress with that depressio lately anyways. I’m getting burned up about Haner! Someday I’ll suck that guy’s blood and sing his own song back to him!”
“Tell me, do you think that would work?”
“It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
Before Bes-Isa could speak again, the door opened. La-Iin narrowed her eyes at Mit-Sun, then gasped when she noticed that Uil-Cur was right behind her.
“No!”
Mit-Sun scoffed. “Please, La-Iin.”
“H-hello there, La-Iin,” Uil-Cur said, sounding uncertain.
“No. Don’t even talk to me. Mama, you said you wanted to repair our bond. You’re on the wrong path. Continue to show me your stupidity and I’ll lock you in a high-security cage when the time comes, if there’s even any of you left to lock in a cage!”
She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow. She could hear a faint conversation between Mit-Sun and Uil-Cur, but she couldn’t be bothered to listen in to hear what it was. She was infuriated that Mit-Sun would even bring Uil-Cur over in the first place.

“I had a feeling this would happen,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Sorry about that, Haner.”
“No, there’s no trouble, Mit-Sun. Just as you had that feeling, so did I. She didn’t take well to me last time I was over either.”
“Well, she can go off and do her own thing if she wants to. Is there something you’d like to do?”
“Much as I’d like to spend time with you right at this moment, I want to try something, Mit-Sun. I’m going to see if I can get through to La-Iin.”
“Why?”
“The two of us are friends! I know it’s not all that important, but I don’t want to strain your relationship with your daughter just because she doesn’t like me. We can spend time together after this–after all, we do have plenty of time!”
“I suppose so,” Mit-Sun said. “Just don’t take too long, alright?”
‘She really does want to spend time with me,’ Uil-Cur thought. ‘Now I really do have to do this. With how she’s acting perhaps La-Iin may someday really be my step-daught…no, don’t think that, Uil-Cur! Stop it!’
He pushed the idea away as he fluttered after La-Iin.
“No flying in my house, Haner,” Mit-Sun said. Uil-Cur landed. “Sorry about that, Mit-Sun.”
“Just don’t do it again.”

“Haner won’t get to Mama first, I’ll show her, if anyone’s going to harm her bodily, it’ll be me, just wait and see….”
“I get that you’re angry, but do you have to pull on me like this!? I can feel pain, you know!”
“Heh heh heh…” The dark look in La-Iin’s eyes told Bes-Isa she wasn’t likely to be released soon.
From behind her La-Iin could hear footsteps. She glared over her shoulder. “Don’t bother reasoning with me, Mama. I will always and forever hate Haner. I–”
La-Iin’s eyes widened when she caught sight of Uil-Cur. “I know you’re not all that fond of me, La-Iin, and I respect that. But I don’t think you should get all so mad at Mit-Sun because of this.”
“Don’t you even dare talk to me, fool!” La-Iin hissed. Uil-Cur sighed. “Please, La-Iin, make this easy on me. If it makes you feel better, this friendship started because of me.”
“Take advantage of my Mama’s stupidity, will you!? Well, I’m not as stupid as she is!”
“Mit-Sun is not stupid! You shouldn’t say such things about your own mother.”
“Why should I listen to you!? You don’t matter to me. You’re just trash.”
Uil-Cur flinched. “I don’t know what I did to earn your ire, La-Iin, but I don’t want this to be how it is. I don’t want you to hate Mit-Sun because you hate me.”
“Quit referring to me by name. You don’t have the permission to do so.” La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “I know your aim, Haner. I know what plans you have for my Mama. I can see them from a mile away. For you see, I’m an expert when it comes to planning things.”
Uil-Cur blinked at her. “What do you mean? I don’t have any plans for Mit-Sun.”
“Do you think I’m stupid!? I know wiles better than most others! You can only have two possible plans for Mama. Either way I won’t accept you!”
“I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You won’t fool me, Haner! Until the moment she proves otherwise, I’ll hope that Mama’s not so stupid to let her emotions fall victim to your plans!”
Uil-Cur blinked. ‘What is she talking about?’ As La-Iin bared her fangs, it clicked in his mind, and his face turned a dark red.
“I–it isn’t–it’s not–look, I think you have the wrong idea, La-Iin…”
“Your reaction only proves to me I have the right idea! Stop it, Haner! Or I’ll give you a reason to regret it!”
Uil-Cur felt completely embarrassed. “I…it’s…there’s nothing to worry about on that front, La-Iin. And if that’s making you angry at Mit-Sun, then you’re being irrational. Be angry at me all you want, but this has nothing to do with her…”
La-Iin’s nose wrinkled.
“Haner? La-Iin?”
Mit-Sun’s voice broke into the argument. “Haner, I heard arguing. If you can’t get through to her, there’s no reason to argue with her.”
“All the arguing was coming from her side, though.”
“La-Iin, cut Haner some slack. I get it–you don’t like him. You’ve made that painfully clear.”
“Apparently not clear enough to get through your thick skull!” La-Iin yelled. She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow.
“I swear, one of these days you’re going to kill me.”
“I’m sorry, Mit-Sun. I didn’t mean to fight with her. She hates me more than I’d expect a seven-year-old to…and now I think I understand why.”
“Why?”
Uil-Cur’s face flushed. “I–I think I just remind her of someone she doesn’t like at her school.”
“Huh?”
“That’s the impression I got, anyway,” he sighed. “So, um, Mit-Sun–about that hanging out?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, there’s plenty I can show you around the house. We have time until dinner to just look around, so tell me where you want to go. Although obviously La-Iin’s room is off-limits.”
“I figured. Well, anywhere you want to show me is fine.”
“Well then, we might as well stop by the miscellaneous room, then,” Mit-Sun said. “Come on!”
From her bedroom La-Iin could hear their conversation. She grit her teeth.
‘What can I do now? Maybe I should turn to Dami for advice on this…’

—–
Dinner came and went, and no matter how hard she tried Mit-Sun simply could not manage to get La-Iin to sit at the table while Uil-Cur was there. Even sending him away didn’t seem to work–La-Iin still refused to sit anywhere near him and instead took her food away and into her room. Mit-Sun lacked the energy to fight with her over it, and so opted against it.
“Thank you for the dinner, Mit-Sun. You are an excellent cook.”
“Not a problem. It was nice to have you over, even though La-Iin was acting up. Maybe next time, we should hang out at your house.”
“Maybe. I hope you can make up with her.”
“Me too. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Uil-Cur. Good night.”
Uil-Cur froze and blinked at Mit-Sun. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
“Er, um, no, not at all!” He flustered. “Did I give you a weird look? I’m sorry, I’m just used to you saying Haner…”
“Oh…well, you keep telling me I can call you Uil-Cur, so I suppose it just came out.”
“Well, I am okay with you calling me that,” he said. “Er, I have to go now. See you, Mit-Sun.”
“See you, Haner. Er, Uil-Cur.”
As Uil-Cur walked out the house, he smiled to himself. ‘I wonder if I might just have a chance after all…maybe, just maybe.’
Remembering Leirhyn’s words, he began to feel confident as he fluttered off towards home.

17.533.The Future of Bledger

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 533
“The Future of Bledger”

“Miss Ukyon, I need to talk with you about an important matter.”
“What?” She sighed. “If this is anything about my approval rating going down again, I don’t want to hear it. I already know the people of Vaelyn don’t like me much. To which I say: would you rather have me, or live in North Vaelyn!?”
“It has nothing to do with that right now. We’re receiving word from authorities over in Bledger, Vaelyn. They wanted me to tell you about the state of affairs over there.”
“Hm?”
“In case you haven’t heard, lately there’s been an increase in crime over in Bledger. Apparently nothing on the level of many mass murders, but there was a recent event in which one Sara Nim-Ghini attempted to set off a bomb near the district of Hledshess. It was the most major of all the crimes attempted so far. Authorities say that if the bomb had not been stopped, it would have caused serious property damage and resulted in a few casualties.”
Sae-Kyu’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Her assistant nodded. “I’ve been keeping a close eye on the happenings of Vaelyn for you, since you seem to often let them go by ignored.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“I’ve checked on the rest of Vaelyn in my spare time. Places like Silcoulle and Plucehon have reported relative peace. Certainly crimes go on there, but police have been telling me about how they’ve discovered entire crime districts over in Bledger. It certainly seems like there’s a lot going on.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it? I’m not exactly stationed over in Bledger, and I do have my own things to do. Do you want me to head over there for morale or something?”
“No, nothing of the sort, Miss Ukyon. Really, nobody knows why the sudden spike in attempted and committed crimes. The police are speculating that these crime districts have always existed and are only just branching out now. Although there have been some suspect incidents…namely, Halloween of 2014, there was massive destruction to parts of Bledger. There were no casualties and barely any injuries, but there’s a lot of confusion as to who the perpetrator was. Some claimed they saw a weakened teenage boy while others claimed they did not see the perpetrator at all. Some further went on to claim that the boy was half-Siren.”
“Huh.”
“And a public school experienced a hostage situation just a little over a year ago. I think you heard of that one–the Malicerie Incident?”
“Yes, I did.”
“So perhaps all along, it wasn’t just something that came out of nowhere because criminals became bold. Perhaps it was always waiting and festering…either way, while I know I can’t exactly go to you and ask you to fix it all, you might want to speak with the authorities of Bledger. Perhaps you could give them some helpful advice.”
“I suppose I could,” she sighed. “Set up communications with them, then.”
“Right at once, Miss Ukyon.”
As her assistant set to work, Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat and sighed. ‘Being the leader of Vaelyn is a lot harder than I initially expected…how did the people who came before me manage it? It’s simple enough to want to go into politics, but this is pushing it. Now I have people who hate me. I guess at least I don’t live in Bledger right now…’
“Miss Ukyon?”
Sae-Kyu startled. “Y-yes?”
“This is Kaenir Wih-Shin of the Bledger Police Force. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.”
“Not at all. What’s up?”
Wih-Shin blinked in surprise. “Err, I’m sure you’ve been informed already of the increasing crime rates over here in Bledger. We’ve found alleyways full of criminal happenings, neighborhoods hiding the active evil and had to deal with a bomb incident just yesterday. Thankfully it was disarmed before any harm came to civilians.”
“I’m sorry things are rough over there, but like I told my assistant, what exactly can I do? Silcoulle’s not exactly close to Bledger, and I have no police experience.”
“I would only ask if you have any tips for dealing with these crime happenings, Miss Ukyon. I don’t expect much of your help. You have bigger things to worry about and I am an experienced officer. If you have nothing to offer then it doesn’t really matter.”
“I can help!” She said indignantly. Wih-Shin gave her a curious look. “So most of these crimes have been committed by the evil, correct?”
“Who else really commits crimes? None of these crimes have been crimes of desperation as far as I’ve seen, Miss Ukyon. It more seems as if the evil have just become more bold. Although the man behind the bomb incident in Hledshess yesterday is a bit infamous for his criminal doings. None of us were really surprised it was him, just that he would go to such lengths.”
“Hm, I guess you’re right. Well, is anything going on over in Bledger that might make impoverished evils turn to crime to take care of themselves?”
“As I said, none of the recent crimes have been crimes of desperation.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “Well, maybe it’s evil crime-committing season…I have no idea anymore. I don’t even know why I’m trying to understand how an evil person thinks.”
“I understand, Miss Ukyon. Don’t worry about it. We of the Bledger Police Force will make sure to protect the citizens of Bledger and prevent any casualties from occurring.”
Sae-Kyu gasped. “Wait a second, what if…what if you started a program over there that lets the evil people express their evil creatively? Do you think that might work?”
“That honestly depends, Miss Ukyon. I don’t think the idea would gain much traction, and anyway it might not stop these people from committing crimes. I suppose we could give it a try, though.”
“I’m happy to have been of help.”
Sae-Kyu briefly noticed an uncertain expression flash on Wih-Shin’s face. “Er, thank you for the tip, Miss Ukyon. Really. That the leader of Vaelyn would take time out of her day to do this is amazing, to me. We will try that idea of letting the evil of Bledger express their evil creatively, but we’ll also keep an eye out on them so that they don’t commit any more crimes. Your idea is certainly a stepping-stone, and I’m sure it will lead to at least a little relief for Bledger.”
“Well, contact me again if things start getting nasty over there. I might not have total control over the workings of Vaelyn but I can send you quite a bit of help.”
“I know you can, Miss Ukyon.” Wih-Shin bowed. “Well, I thank you for the assistance!”
The contact ended and Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat.
“Far be it from me to criticize one of your better decisions, but did you notice Mr. Kaenir’s expression?”
“Yeah, I noticed. He doesn’t think the idea’s going to work. He might have a sense of respect for me because I’m the leader of Vaelyn, but that doesn’t change the fact that my idea made him wary. But what am I supposed to do? We can’t exactly ban the evil of Vaelyn. The worldwide recognition that there are people who hold evil ideals was supposed to keep the people who would act on those ideals at bay. I can’t change a long-standing worldwide decision, it would make things worse. I really don’t understand evil people…”
“A lot of good don’t, Miss Ukyon. I feel more neutrally about some subjects and even I don’t understand how someone could so proudly declare their evil. But all people are different, and while recognition of their ideals might have curbed the actions of some it possibly hasn’t worked for all of them. Evil communities seem alive and well in Bledger, unfortunately.”
“Hopefully all works out there. If I can’t even help curb the problem in Bledger that’ll only decrease people’s opinions of me. I kind of can’t wait to get out of office.”
Her assistant sighed. “Miss Ukyon, you need to take this all more seriously! I trust the Bledger Police Force, and if they need your help they will likely contact you again. But you’re in a high position of power. Don’t just handwave things because people don’t care for you. Do you think that will increase the public’s opinion of you?”
“No, I suppose not.”
Her assistant huffed. “I’m as worried about Bledger as Mr. Kaenir seems to be, but there’s nothing much we can do right now. We’ll just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and do our best to keep this influx of evil limited to Bledger alone. If it spills into any other part of Vaelyn people will turn their frustrations on you.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “I really did think the whole thing about letting evil people express their evil creatively was a good idea. After all, acknowledging evil people worked for some time. Now it’s 2015 and we need to work with more ideas for the young generation of evil.”
“Well, if you say so. But there’s other work for you to do today, Miss Ukyon. I’ll keep an eye on the status of Bledger.”
“Alright. Come to me immediately if you hear of a mass shooting or anything like that.”
“Do you really think that’s going to happen?”
Sae-Kyu shrugged. “It’s just a concern I had.”
“Really, Miss Ukyon…”

—–
“Did you hear the radio broadcast, La-Iin? They say there are plans to start a new movement for evil people to express their evil creatively. It sounds perfect for you.”
“Why would I need to join some sort of movement? I already have drawing to express my evil creatively.”
“I know you do, I just figured I’d bring it up.”
‘Yeah right, Mama. You and they probably think that will stop me! Well, the best creative expression of evil is evil actions themselves! Though nothing like what the Saras do….”

16.532.Persona of the Saras

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 532
“Persona of the Saras”

“Hey, La-Iin, I noticed you’ve been hanging out with Sara quite a bit.”
“Yes. Why? Are you getting jealous?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “It’d take more than that to get me jealous.”
“You got jealous over a piece of paper once.”
Fer-Shi glanced away from her. “It just surprises me. You really seemed like you didn’t like her at first.”
“I told you already, she has something I want to know. It’s a mutual deal. I play with her, and she tells me what I want to know. Besides, you’ve been playing with Veiner a lot lately and I haven’t gotten on your case.”
“He’s a pretty creative boy!”
“I don’t care. I don’t find him interesting in the slightest.”
“It’s just strange to me. Though I guess if you can be friends with me, you can be friends with Sara.”
“Cahongyun!” La-Iin and Fer-Shi’s conversation was interrupted by Shuu-Kena’s voice. She ran up to La-Iin with a smile on her face.
“Cahongyun, I wanted to ask you something. How would you like to come over to my house tonight? I got permission from my parents yesterday and I thought you might like to meet them.”
“Hm?”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but the offer’s there. Don’t worry, I won’t let them hurt you. I think they’d like you better than me, anyway…but yeah! If you want to come over, meet me after school!”
Shuu-Kena walked off after that, climbing onto the monkey bars.
“She’s inviting you to her house already? And what does she mean by she won’t let them hurt you? La-Iin, do you know?”
“I have a feeling I know, but I don’t think they’d hurt me, and even if they tried, I could overpower a family of Normals.”
“You’d be outnumbered, though…”
“It doesn’t matter. I have a lot more power than I used to, that and confidence. And I think I will accept Sara’s offer. That will give me a chance to see firsthand what it is I want to learn. Fer-Shi, tell Mama I’ll be coming home late!”
“Can’t you tell her yourself!?”
La-Iin shook her head. ‘This should be good.’
“You really are getting excited, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi sighed. “I guess you do like Sara.”
“She’s useful. And I feel like someone’s getting jealous again.”
“Wha–ohh, I guess I am…well, I just hope you have fun over at Sara’s house, okay? Make sure to tell me all about it!”
“I make no promises on that front, Fer-Shi. What I see there might be confidential. But probably not.”
Fer-Shi blinked. ‘I wonder if she’s part of some sort of detective family…’
“Sara looks busy and so does Veiner. Why don’t we play together and get rid of your jealousy?”
“Um, okay!”

***

As soon as school that day came to an end, La-Iin approached Shuu-Kena’s seat and the two head off together out of the school. La-Iin waved to Fer-Shi, who judging by her facial expression was still feeling slightly jealous.
La-Iin let Shuu-Kena lead the way to her house, curious about the path she was taking. It was not a path La-Iin remembered taking or seeing any other student take.
“Will your Mom be okay with this? Did you call her?”
“I’m having someone else call her for me. And I think she’s used to it. Why do you care? Would your Mama care?”
Shuu-Kena gave a sad smile. “No, I guess not. I’ll let you spend a lot of time with my family, but if you get bored of hanging around them, I could always show you my paintings. They’re not very good but they’re all I have.”
“Hm. Well, unless your family is nothing but evil failures I don’t think I’ll get bored of hanging around them.”
“Heh heh, probably not.”
The path to Shuu-Kena’s house seemed even darker than the path to Imagination’s graveyard, and La-Iin found the spooky atmosphere endearing. The neighborhood Shuu-Kena lived in was past a row of alleyways in a dark and small neighborhood; the house she led La-Iin to stood on its own, shaded by tall trees. It seemed like the type of house that would be seen as haunted, and it excited her.
Shuu-Kena opened the door and she and La-Iin were immediately greeted by two young girls.
“Hello there,” said one.
“You must be Shuu-Kena’s ‘friend’.” Said the other.
“She has the face of a psychopath.”
“I know. Endearing, isn’t it?”
“These are my little sisters Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo,” Shuu-Kena said. “This one is Kyu-Aseri, and that one is Kyu-Nhogo.”
“We can introduce ourselves,” said Kyu-Aseri.
“And we can be told apart easily,” said Kyu-Nhogo.
“I know. I just–”
“What is your name, newcomer?” Interrupted Kyu-Nhogo.
“Cahongyun La-Iin.”
“Ahh, Cahongyun. Aeness, are we?”
“No.”
“Hm, that’s strange. We must consult in Ther-Aoughin about this phenomena.” Kyu-Aseri waved. “We hope you have a terrible time at the Sara house, Cahongyun!”
The two young girls walked off.
“They like to overblow their evil,” Shuu-Kena said with a chuckle. La-Iin narrowed her eyes, then asked, “Who is Ther-Aoughin?”
“That’s my older brother. Speaking of, do you have any siblings, Cahongyun?”
“No, and I better not get any.”
“Huh? What do you mean by that?”
La-Iin looked away. “Show me someplace else.”
“Okay.”
All of the Sara house was decorated in a dark, gothic style, and it excited La-Iin further. Pictures of the family and violent scenes hung on the wall, and the house had little furniture and no electronics as far as La-Iin could see. All the windows were covered with dark red curtains; the only light was that which made it through the curtains and a dim one hanging in the living room.
Shuu-Kena led La-Iin into the kitchen, which was decorated a bit brighter than the rest of the house. Inside the kitchen Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo sat next to a boy who appeared to be only slightly older than San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina–La-Iin assumed he must be Ther-Aoughin. Chopping up a bloody piece of meat was a tall woman La-Iin assumed was their mother. The sight and scent of the blood made La-Iin’s mouth water.
“Hello, Mom. I’m home.”
“Hello,” her mother said dryly. She laid eyes on La-Iin. “Hello…a Vampire, hmm?”
“This is Cahongyun,” Shuu-Kena said. “She’s a classmate.”
“I was interested in meeting the family,” La-Iin said.
“I see….I also assume word gets out easy, hence your curiosity,” she said, glaring at Shuu-Kena. Shuu-Kena flinched away, then forced a smile. La-Iin gave her a curious glance.
“Mom, where is Dad?”
“Out doing his ‘job’….assuming all goes well, he’ll be back a little bit before dinner. Say, little fangster–I hear your kind like blood. How would you like a cup of some?”
La-Iin nodded wildly. Shuu-Kena’s mother grinned and poured the blood into a cup, handing it to La-Iin. La-Iin downed the blood so quickly that some of it splashed on her face. Shuu-Kena’s family, along with Shuu-Kena herself, watched in awe.
“Interesting…well, feel free to stay until dinner. Listen to yourself when it comes to leaving.”
“Though when we want you out,” piped in Ther-Aoughin, “you’ll know.”
Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo giggled.
“Why don’t we go to my room for now?”
“It’s our room too,” said Kyu-Aseri.
“I know. I’ll keep to my side of the room. Would you like to go there, Cahongyun?”
“There’s so much blood coming off that meat…”
Shuu-Kena’s mother glanced over her shoulder and smirked at La-Iin.
“There is, but there’s plenty of other blood and I bet you have better blood at home. Come on!”
La-Iin sighed as Shuu-Kena dragged her out the kitchen. She could overhear the starts of a conversation between Shuu-Kena’s siblings that seemed to be their predictions of who might die soon. La-Iin couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“Why’d you drag me away?”
“I’m so sorry, Cahongyun. I just…I don’t usually get to have people over here, so my family was really…well, they try their hardest to seem evil in everything they do…and I worried that if you stayed there and kept drinking the blood from that meat they’d keep asking you to do things for them. And I guess I was a little embarrassed.”
“I came here for observation.”
“My room is perfect for that,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “Just look.”
The room was split apart by two sides that were painted slightly different shades of dark red. One had a bunk-bed and several violent decorations such as gory dolls, pictures of bleeding characters from animations, and books with VIOLENCE stamped as their genre. It would be a disturbing sight to most others, but it made La-Iin even more curious.
“That part of the room belongs to Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo,” Shuu-Kena said.
“They really like violence.”
“Too much. Like I said, my family really is evil, but they think if you’re evil it should be your whole personality. That’s something else I like about you, La-Iin. Even though you’re evil, there’s more to you than just that.”
“Evil is an important part of me.”
“I know.”
La-Iin glanced at Shuu-Kena’s part of the room. A stack of white canvas sat near a night desk. “Are those your paintings?”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “I like to paint a lot of things, the things I like, so I’ve painted nature and my family…I even painted you once.”
“What?”
“I haven’t finished it yet though, so don’t ask to see it! But I’ll show it to you when I’m finished. Really, La-Iin, even if you just wanted to see things about my family, I’m grateful you’re playing with me now.”
“It’s a mutual deal,” La-Iin said. Shuu-Kena nodded. “Well, if you want to see the rest of the house, so long as we’re careful we shouldn’t get in too much trouble.”
“I like getting in trouble.”
“You wouldn’t want to around my parents. When I get in trouble it’s horrible. Even though you’re evil, would you really want someone doing something evil to you?”
La-Iin pondered the idea for a moment. “I guess most of the time, no.”
As Shuu-Kena showed her around the house, La-Iin was able to see the extent of the Sara’s evil. Clippings of crime stories, pictures of violence and books filled with violence and tips for crimes, and dark colors were all around the house. Inside her brother Ther-Aoughin’s room, pictures of actual corpses abound, and even La-Iin found herself slightly put-off by the sight. Weapons could be found in some of the rooms, and in one rooms there was a radio, television and computer. La-Iin noticed the computer was on a page on how best to torture someone via poisoning without killing them.
“We got stuck with the wrong families,” La-Iin said.
“I don’t think so. I like my family for the most part. Don’t you like yours?”
La-Iin sighed. “I suppose so. I just wish mine was as evil as yours.”
“You don’t really. Er, well, I guess I don’t actually know, but they can be pretty annoying sometimes. I think even you might get annoyed by how hard they try. They try too hard, let me tell you.”
“But do they succeed?”
“Dad does sometimes,” she said. “We’ll have to wait until he comes back home this time, but–”
Shuu-Kena flinched at the sound of a large slam. Curious, La-Iin headed in the direction of the noise and noticed a police officer at the door. Shuu-Kena’s mother stood there, the expression on her face far more innocent than the one she had had on earlier.
“Are you Sara Hei-Yhunni?”
“Yes? What is it?” Even her tone of voice was far more innocent than earlier.
“We came to tell you that your husband has been arrested. Again. Miss, you need to keep tabs on what he’s doing. Who knows when his crimes will escalate from this into murder!”
“Now now, calm down. The woman’s already shocked enough that he got arrested again! Don’t worry, ma’am. He’ll be out soon enough.”
“I hope so…”
“I guess he failed,” Shuu-Kena whispered.
“What was he doing?”
“I think he said today he was going to set a small pipe bomb nearby some place called ‘Hledshess’….”
“Hm.”
The police officers left and Hei-Yhunni breathed a sigh of relief before stomping out of La-Iin’s line of sight. “Well, I guess you can’t talk to Dad today. But if you want, you can talk to the rest of my family before you go.”
“I will. But there’s one other thing I want to do first.”
“What?”
“Show me your paintings. I’m curious about some of them.”
Shuu-Kena’s mouth turned up in a wide smile. This time, La-Iin could tell it was genuine. She ran off towards her and her sisters’ rooms, and La-Iin followed close behind.

***

Dinner that night at the Saras, La-Iin could understand Shuu-Kena’s frustration.
“I always say that people who pardon others are failures at evil. You should be open to any kind of betrayal.”
“I’ll give my husband that he tries. And I bet he would take us out too if he found the inclination. We’re just too useful to him for that to happen.”
“Yeah, I’d rather die because of Papa than because of some weakling illness.”
“It’s so pathetic how some evil people will say that they have standards. The whole point of evil is to be negative of good. Good people are the ones who have standards!”
“See what I mean?” Shuu-Kena whispered.
“Yes.”
‘You all are just a bunch of try-hards!’ Thought La-Iin. ‘Only Sara’s Dami carries through with his evil, doesn’t he? The rest of them just sit here and talk. They’ll witness true evil when I rule the world…although I suppose they’re a good example of ‘how not to be evil’.’
Thinking that made La-Iin feel slightly embarrassed when herself, but when Ther-Aoughin mentioned that he too would rather be taken out by his father than natural causes, she felt slightly better.

—–
When La-Iin arrived home that night, Mit-Sun was glaring at her through narrowed eyes.
“Mama, I went over to…an acquaintance’s.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I just wish you would have told me yourself, La-Iin. That’s all.”
“Fer-Shi told you, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Normally I might be mad at you, Mama, but tonight I’m not. I found out I could have a much worse family than having two goody-goodies as my parents.”
“Huh?”
‘How humiliating that I find Sara herself to be more tolerable than her family!’ Thought La-Iin. ‘But I’ll give her one thing. She’s surprisingly more open to better evil ideas than her family…’
The idea that the Saras felt better off being killed by each other made her cringe. ‘They claim we should have no sympathy yet look at them. Sniveling hypocritical fools!’