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((Remember ya'll, this might be a new story, but Kang Im's still the one who owns TAL and it's characters so please support the original webtoon! Thanks so much~!))

"...Mutter."

Gasun felt himself sweating, trying to control his shock and mask it from both Seo Jun and Logan. 'Think think think think-' The TAL was panicking now, his fight to control his expression a lost cause.

"...Don't go."

Seo Jun's quiet whimper made Gasun freeze in his seat. Sitting across from him wasn't the wild violent sadist who'd strung Ara up by her ankle and turned Ho's arm into a knife block. It was a very scared looking child whose eyes were begging Gasun. "...I have to." His voice came out in a voice so low and hoarse it could've gone undetected even by Maru, Gasun not daring to speak any louder.

"Please don't." JuJu begged again. "It's better now that you're here. Please."

Damn his emotions!

"Please don't leave us here with him." Seo Jun rasped, nearly in tears.

Gasun bit his lip.

When Logan returned to the kitchen, Seo Jun was happily eating his dinner as Gasun held him in his lap, humming softly and grooming the child's hair. "Seems that Fischerman has had an idea. Though it will take some time to restore Kleiner Hase, this plot should entertain him and keep him away for a while."

"That means we have the haus to ourselves! Right?" Seo Jun was certainly overjoyed at that.

The psychic smiled and ruffled the child's hair, leaning down towards Gasun. Knowing that Seo Jun's trust was crucial if he wanted even a chance at freedom, Gasun willingly turned and kissed Logan, allowing the affection to deepen briefly until Logan pulled back. "We shall be together, without that nasty Hackfresse around."

Gasun held Seo Jun just a bit tighter as Logan's hand drifted down his back with intent.

"I want to go shopping with Mutter!" Seo Jun spoke up, feeling the squeeze. "After dinner can we go? Lolo?" He begged.

The German Chachaoong smiled. "Wunderbar idea, Mein JuJu. Hurry and finish your plate then." As the child resumed demolishing his food, Logan noticed something was off. "Hmm? You should eat as well. Meine schöne Mönch, you will need your energy." He urged by tapping his fingers on Gasun's shoulder.

"Ah, yes-" Gasun glanced to Seo Jun, who pausing in the middle of stuffing rice in his mouth, a few kernels stuck around his lips.

As the TAL cleaned the child's face Logan laughed and went to prepare Gasun's plate for him. "Here, Meine schöne Mönch, I'll help. JuJu can be so disorderly, eh?" As he set the plate down the scent of hot food wafted to his nose, and Gasun's stomach growled.

'Even so...What he's done to me...'
Gasun spooned the 'mash' and realized it was mashed potatoes, the starch mixed with a good amount of butter and chives, and each mouthful he ate filled his stomach and soothed the ache and turbulence in it. 'Sorry but I'll have to trick you until I have enough strength.' When Logan cut something that looked like fried meat, Gasun allowed the other psychic to feed him the bite, and kiss the TAL on the cheek which seemed to satisfy Seo Jun.

Gasun chewed the bite, feeling his strength slowly return. 'I don't plan to be a prisoner forever.'

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"-But then the sports team came from nowhere it was AWESOME-"

Jin was babbling to Mirine and Chan-U as they walked home, happy to fill them in on the weekend antics. Now that more and more of the city was getting that the bizarre beings were being taken care of, it was less dangerous to talk about out in the open. Nabi was once again looking after Noah, mostly sitting in the same room while he napped to keep him company and the others did their housechores. The female JuZe was in pup-form, scurrying over to Nabi to lay in her lap in a perfect fluffy puddle.

"-And then Hyung and Nuna swooped in-"

Sarah was maintaining a vigilant eye from the roof, her senses spread in all direction in a thin veil over the area. At the most it'd pick up if an alert was called, and she'd hand off the task of grabbing the Infected to either Teora Hao or Lun.

"And no more headaches?" Mirine piped up as she and Chan-U stared heavily at Jin.

He sweated. "Well, they come and go as the Infected do, but it's a lot more manageable now that Yun and I can detonate the seeds." His brother was currently hunting again, Yun not wanting to waste even one second in the fight to find Gasun and the trio who'd taken him.

"Man, if I start getting Infected, I'm running straight to you guys." Chan-U frowned as he scratched his head.

Jin grinned and grabbed onto his friend's arm. "I might be the one asking you for help! You've been building up a lot of muscle!" He laughed as his friend hoisted him off the ground.

"Nah, you're just a feather." Chan-U teased, cackling even as Jin tried to kick him in the stomach.

Mirine looked up the street as the boys tussled, flailing as soon as she spotted more red hair. "Ahjussi!" Yong stopped mid-stride and turned towards them, a box under his arm. "Good to see you again!" She went running right up to him, and with a flick of his finger, Mirine was caught and seated in Ghost's hands.

"Children. King Jin." The elder bowed his head as Jin did the same. "I was bringing this from Jenna. She and Haje were out shopping and thought you'd enjoy these."

The younger King blinked, and his eyes then went wide as he opened the box. "A new steamer! And a mandolin! And- Ohmygosh ARE THESE NEW KNIVES?!" Jin was surrounded by a happy aura as he hugged the box, Yong looking amused as the king squealed over kitchenware.

"If there's one thing Jin can't turn his nose up at, it's donations from the heart." Mirine giggled.

Nabi was sipping tea, watching some show on the TV as they came in. She made a silent gesture, pointing at Noah whom was curled up around the girls and JuZes. Jin nodded and let Mirine and Chan-U take the new appliances to the kitchen as he sat down next to Noah and lightly hugged his Hyung.

"No change in his mood yet?" Yong asked, Nabi shaking her head slowly. "...No change in your hesitation, either, I take it?"

The Horse stiffened, fiddling with her cup.

"It's not that I mean to push your hand, but...If you are not up to the task, whoever is must be allowed to approach Noah. We need that 'eye in the sky' of his for everyone's sake." Yong's hand was warm and fatherly on her head.

Nabi set the cup on her lap. "I know, I know." She said softly, averting her gaze. "I just...It's just such a huge decision, bigger than a-any decision I've ever had to make before..." The Horse paused, briefly closing her eyes and taking a sip of her tea and gathering her thoughts as she did so. "I'm...I'm scared. I'm scared of what it'd be like, to-to share so much with someone. But I...I can't bring myself to say no. Not-not yet, at least. Because I want to help Oppa, and I want to help everyone, and if-if linking with Oppa would really help a lot, then I have to at least seriously consider it."

"If it comes down to it, Nuna, I'll link with Hyung too!" Jin told her. "He's done so much for me, and I want to do what I can for him as well!" He bounded over Noah and sat next to Nabi, grinning. "We'd be fine in a link, since our feelings are the same, right?"

Her eyes shone. "King..." Nabi paused as the word slipped out, and she fidgeted a bit before speaking again. "Jin. I meant...Jin."

"FINALLY! I WAS GETTING TIRED OF EVERYONE SAYING 'KING-NIM'!" Jin hugged her, bawling dramatically. She patted his back as Ryu poked his head in, a tray with cookies on it and his pink bandanna around his mouth.

As they settled in for the afternoon, Yong calling Hiljo to check on the TALs whom were training again, GaRam woke up with a yawn and rubbed her face, the lemon eye spotting Nabi and Jin and climbing over her mother and sister to join them. "Rami is awake huh?" Jin gave her a cookie to nibble on as she planted herself in his lap.

"Muh-Mornin'." The tiny girl replied in an even tinier voice.

Her sister woke then, and GaBe scurried over to claim Nabi's lap, the cherry eye giving the Horse puppy eyes that gained her a hug from the ecstatic TAL. "Hello there~" Nabi was hard pressed not smile when the girls were so cute.

"G'mornin'." Both girls still had a habit of slurring when they talked, especially if they weren't speaking in unison. "GamunBe?"

The StoryTeller appeared, messing with the TV to Jin's horror. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"[I'm hooking you guys up! I figured out how to connect through Sarah WITHOUT wasting her lifeforce energy~!]" The screen flickered from static to a crystal clear picture of the training grounds where the TALs were. "[Look at your dad, girls! One on one with Beu Ne!]" The avatar flailed giddily as the Ox roared, swinging Ara and her ax away with some difficulty.

GaRam and GaBe started to cheer as Ara got back up and lunged for GamunBe's back, the Ox's own weapon slicing through the air to collide and block the attack. Further away, Mano and Jenna had teamed up against SaeHa, Mir and Haje trying to take down Yangban.

Nabi watched the fights progress, her fingers squeezing her knee as she glanced over to Noah, still asleep.

"...Storyteller-Nim?"

The avatar looked over at her, seeming surprised by the address.

"...Is there anyone I can train with?"

Kang Im tilted their head. "[...I'm afraid not, to be honest. To level up in healing, well...You'd need either a lot of injured folks or...one who wouldn't mind getting hurt a bunch of times.]"

"I mean...combat training." She summoned a knife into her hand, staring at the reflection of her own eyes in the blade.

There was silence. Then - "Let's go out into the yard then, Nuna." Jin was getting to his feet with a smile.

"Since I don't trust you two not to go off the handle-" Yong was stating as they faced each other, his arms folded. "You'll be using rubber knives. Do what you can, this isn't a competition."

Jin had a red rubber blade that he was bending with a grin. "Smart~ Ready Nuna?"

"R-Ready!" She stuttered in reply, trying to fix her feet into the same stance as Jin while Yong watched.

The redheaded King lunged forward at the drop of Yong's hand, his arm braced for the knife to go for Nabi's side. As soon as Jin lunged, Nabi dodged, darting out of his path and dashing a short distance away. She kept her eyes trained on him from her new position, knife clutched tightly as she awaited his next move. Jin skidded and turned on his toes, keeping his arm low before lunging at her with the intent of swinging into an uppercut.

Nabi again darted away, Yong watching with an unreadable expression as his thought bubble consisted of her as a fawn prancing away from a little red Jin rabbit. This time, however, she charged him, aiming for his arm and succeeding in getting him to drop the knife. "WOAH!"

"Hyah!" With Jin disarmed, the girl proceeded to swing again, aiming for his side like he'd aimed for hers. Her knife harmlessly bent upon impact to his rib, and Jin put his arm up with a wide-eyed look.

Yong coughed, clearly amused. "Well done. King, you have to remember that one single strong move is meaningless unless you actually have the skill to back it up. Doing as Horse did, feinting and backing off until she got a clear picture of your tactics, then waiting until the best time to strike - that is why she was victorious."

"Augh." Jin dropped to his knees. "I can remember the attacks that Yun does, from his memories, but...I can't seem to do those."

Seeing as he had no weapon Nabi dropped her knife by her side. "H-hey." Nabi spoke up, kneeling next to Jin. "It-it's okay. I'm sure you'll be able to do them if you keep practicing." She offered him the rubber item and smiled, and once he'd gotten to his feet Nabi did the same.

"Try again." Yong bid, watching as again, they lunged for each other. This time Jin went into a frenzy of stabbing motions at Nabi's sides, alternating left and right to keep Nabi on her toes. 'He's in a frenzy because he's not fond of losing. Understandable, but he's up against his own handpicked TAL. And she earned her Mask.' The elder was analyzing the fight as the girls kept their eyes on the TV. 'Horse's strength isn't just in her legs, though. Her own natural skill was developed living a human life.'

Nabi ducked and dodged Jin's strikes, yelping out squeaks as she did so.

'Even if you can remember how someone fights, unless you're fit for it, you can't replicate the moves yourself.'
Yong had a hand on his chin. 'And though you're a Chachaoong, you're still new to your own body. Even in previous fights it was lucky when your hits landed.'

As they continued to train, Yoong felt a weightless, rolling wave against his senses. 'Noah.'

'Sorry. Just woke up. Baby King and Nunim are working hard then?'

Noah rubbed at his face, GaRam and GaBe cuddling up to him and nuzzling their faces against his stomach. 'They've certainly got the natural skills, but it's a matter of training them into handling themselves and wielding those skills.' Yoong replied easily. It wasn't strange to him, as Jack had given him orders many a time in the same fashion. 'Horse can utilize her speed to make up for her lack of strength, but can't control her direction. She's a good thinker but she's got to learn how to react on her thoughts.'

'Hah, you sound like a teacher.'

The elder's face fell into a sour pinch. 'And as much as Jin is a part of YiMae, he lacks the control over his strength and speed. He's more turbulent than Beu Ne, honestly, only more dangerous since he seems to have many similarities to YiMae.'

'You can call him Yun, yanno. He's not so annoying as you remember him, right?'


Yoong paused, a thoughtful frown on his face. '...I suppose not. But...considering what has happened to him...I shouldn't really continue that distance.' Jin's war cry heralded him attempting to lunge at Nabi from high up, landing facefirst as she dodged to the side. 'Once we have all the TAL properly trained, the Kings' Court will be a force to reckon with.'

'Even untrained they're really something.'
Noah had the girls back in front of the TV, now watching as Sarah's ghosts faced off against the Yongma. 'Especially her...'

Yoong suddenly tilted his head up, Seraph tugging for his attention. 'An Infected...'

[Oh dear.]

Noah and Yoong perked up at the voice. 'What's up?'

[It looks like it's heading for Lotte and Henry!]


They blanched.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"-So when you can land on the opposite foot at the edge, it's called a 'triple lutz'." Henry was reading a book Lotte had been carrying until the dollmaker had snatched it from his hands, curious to see what it was about. "The 'lutz' was created by a skater named Alois Lutz, an Australian skater who invented it in 1913. When you can manage four it's called a Quad Lutz. I've never landed it because I slow down on the third to land safely."

Henry hummed to show he was listening. "There's too many similar ones, how in the world do you even tell the moves apart?"

"Well, haha, there ARE professionals who judge the competition." Lotte shrugged. "They know what to look for." They reached the street corner, waiting on the light to change. "You didn't have to come to the library with me today but uh, thank you."

The Chachaoong turned his head, acting aloof. "It was either tag along or get bullied at home since Teacher and Mano Teacher are busy."

"I don't think there's anyone in that house right now who'd 'bully' you." Lotte did air-quotes on the word. "Besides you seem like nothing gets under your skin. It's kind of fascinating."

Henry's expression lessened to a muted one. "I was called cruel for that before." He adjusted his glasses, his squid doll on his back as SaeHa had fitted it to carry medical supplies in it. "I don't see the point in being emotional over things that aren't issues. If a situation is out of your power to do anything about it, why approach it with an emotionally cluttered view?"

"Feelings are just something that comes with being a person, I guess?" Lotte shrugged as the light signaled them to walk.

At first, Henry's reaction was to say 'I'm hardly a person', a knee-jerk response in a conversation like this. Sarcasm was a good deflector, and he had picked it up from Mano. But the words failed to leave his tongue, and Henry frowned silently.

"Though I can understand it from both angles." Lotte continued. "On one hand, in a situation, emotional response is natural. You want to yell or point fingers, but you know remaining logical about the situation is best. Logic is sound, it's fact and it is what works. But..." The icy blue eyes glinted faintly. "Sometimes emotion is necessary. To better understand others and their actions, to understand their feelings in a moment when a decision is made..."

The Chachaoong's eyes had grown wider as Lotte spoke.

"Ah!" Lotte's face flushed red. "N-Never-mind! Never-mind! I just spouted that off in such a wishy-washy way! Sorry!"

Henry watched as Lotte turned away rubbing his face in embarrassment. "No...I could understand that, I suppose..." He uttered as they came to a halt at the next light.

"Henry-Hyung! Woon Lotte!!"

They flinched in unison as Jin and Ryu suddenly snatched them from the street, the giant holding onto Henry as Jin scaled the building with Lotte on his back. "What the HELL, Yu Jin?!" Lotte screeched.

"INCOMING!" The King shouted in reply, just as a roar and a loud boom below announced the Infected posse destroying the intersection.

Up on the rooftop, Nabi grabbed Lotte's arm and pulled him onto solid ground as Jin leapt back down, Henry wheezing sickly as Ryu dove after his master. "StoryTeller-Ahjussi alerted us to the Infected heading your way, so we had to intercept them." She explained, dressed clearly for a fight in knee-length trousers instead of a dress, and a fitted and tight shirt.

"I didn't even notice it." Lotte rubbed his face.

As Ryu detained the Infected, Jin readying himself to destroy the seeds, Nabi helped Henry to his feet. "Are you okay Oppa?"

"By now I'm used to being yanked off my feet." He sighed.

Crackles rang out, Jin fainting onto the asphalt of the street as the rock forms broke down. "It seems when they perform the task together, King Jin remains fine, but apart and on his own, he still lacks stamina for it." Yoong commented as he appeared nearby.

"To be fair, it's not a normal task like in combat or physical activity." Lotte chimed as he brushed himself off. "You can build up muscle from kicking or punching practice, but Yu Jin is, uh, using his mind to actually blow something up...Somehow." Henry returned the book to him, the human hugging the tome to his chest. 

Ryu had gotten Jin back on his feet, and leapt up to land on the ledge with his master on his shoulder. "Everybody okay?" He asked from his perch, a bit pale and sweaty.

"You're the one who needs to rest." Lotte dug in his backpack, and offered a candy bar. "...What? My older sister was the same way when she was cramming for her midterms, your sugar levels are low. Trust me, eat the chocolate." Jin shrugged and took the candy, Lotte turning around to Nabi and Yoong. "Are there anymore?"

Yoong closed his eyes for a moment. "...No. King Yun cornered the other half of that group, and Monkey reports that there's silence beyond that."

"Then we should take this chance and let everyone rest, right?" Jin asked around the candy. "Everybody's been working, but they'll wear themselves to exhaustion at this rate." He slipped down from Ryu's shoulder, nuzzling his beast's face. "We should let them have a break! Hung mentioned a vacation of sorts a while back, and it IS summer. I'll be off from school for a bit, why not then?"

Lotte stared at him. "Summer is studying season, Yu Jin. Even with the break between semesters, all of our class is going to be studying for the next semester's exams."

"But all work and no play drives a man insane!" Jin retorted, his arms thrown wide. "We've already gone to Thailand and Japan! We should go somewhere exotic for the heck of it!" Nabi and Yoong shared a look; they hadn't exactly had a choice on those journeys, so Jin's idea of a getaway was more than tempting.

 Lotte facepalmed. "Have your 'fun' then, but I need to study. There's a very high chance that I can be scouted for a school abroad and I want that chance to become a guarantee."

"Uh...You do know Hyung can just GIVE you a plane ride over to America whenever you want right?" Jin pointed out.

The other redhead rolled his eyes. "I want to EARN it, Yu Jin. My dad earned his way up the ladder to where he is now with hard work, which is why he and Mom and my sisters had the chance to go and live there. I need to earn my way too. Get it?" He shrugged.

"Not really." Jin immediately replied, Lotte groaning and facepalming. "I'm thinking somewhere with a beach. Tropics maybe?" The human threw his arms up and began to walk away, Henry following him. "You're invited too Lotte!"

As the human gave him the bird, Nabi looked to Yoong. "Would that really be okay? It took so long to get the Infected under control."

"Ah, but they ARE manageable now because we do have control." Yoong raised. "When the Kings are not in range to destroy the seeds, the Lost TAL and Monkey are adept at storing them safely. We could theoretically have a vacation if we have at least a few TAL staying here to keep watch over the situation."

The ever familiar avatar suddenly popped into view. "Admit it, you want to go on vacation too. I can totally see your thoughts of sipping a coconut drink on the beach while enjoying the sun."

"I-!" The elder's face turned the same color as his hair.
We reached something akin to fifty mph winds yesterday. The door almost came off the restaurant XD

A double thanks to both :iconxxdarkblue-magexx: for German translations and the use of her character Sarah, and to :iconmemebun: for letting me use her character Nabi~ Thank you both for all your hard work in helping out with AfterMask!

Please support the TAL webtoon on Naver, and thank you for reading Tale of TAL~
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