8.128.Conundrum of Memories

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 128
“Conundrum of Memories”

Dosa-Mina flipped through a scrapbook. It was his scrapbook, given to him by his parents when he was younger. They had included a few pictures of him when he was very young. The first picture in the book was a picture of him with a smile on his face, dated in June of 1999. ‘I was barely a month old…’
As the flipped through pages of pictures of his baby self playing with toys and being happy, the pictures started to get more personal. He noticed the number of pictures of himself in his Werewolf-Siren form start to diminish as his sixth birthday approached. He noticed he had many pictures with his mother when he was seven.
He got to the bulk of his pictures once he reached his tenth year. He could see pictures from when he had first entered Muer Elementary. Pictures tapered off for a short while until he saw a picture with a younger San-Kyung, a sour expression on his face. The picture made him smile. Nearby it was a picture of him in his true form hugging tight to San-Kyung.
From there, he noticed, most of the pictures were of San-Kyung. He had several pictures of himself, his other friends, his parents and the people around him, but there were still more of San-Kyung than any of those people on their own. He noticed that there was a picture of him and San-Kyung on Halloween for each year since he had met him. He noticed the picture they took when they graduated from Muer Elementary, and the picture they took upon entering Deatrou Junior High. He also noted the picture from when they transferred to Malicerie Public School, no longer wearing the uniforms they had worn at Deatrou. There were also pictures with both boys’ families.
Dosa-Mina smiled. He had been through a lot in his fourteen years of life. ‘I hope I can do a lot this year too.’
It was still early in the morning, and only his mother was awake right now. With nothing to do and a lot of energy, he had decided to look through some old books before he went off to school.
But in truth, he didn’t want to go to school today. He didn’t want to risk seeing La-Iin at all. All he wanted to do was spend a day with San-Kyung as he had on San-Kyung’s birthday, hoping he would be allowed to shower in him all the affection he could give. He was itching to be affectionate today as opposed to other days, and he was tempted to ask his mother to call him in sick. If La-Iin bothered him today of all days, he knew he would be depressed.
‘I wonder if she’s being good to her mother.’ Dosa-Mina’s birthday was also Parent’s Day. His parents never asked anything of him, saying that his birth was enough of a gift. Dosa-Mina always liked to celebrate double on their birthdays in return, and on their anniversary as well.
He sighed and glanced at some of the other books he had pulled from his bookshelves. He had several species study books laid out on his bed, focusing on various species and various aspects. He had notebooks with school notes in them. He had one notebook that had a small lock on it. The notebook made him uncomfortable. It was filled with recollections of his nightmares, recounting the events that commonly went down in them.
He glanced at the picture book again, looking through some of the more recent pictures of him and San-Kyung at thirteen and fourteen. San-Kyung was smiling in most of their teenage photos. Glancing back at the pictures from when they had just become friends, and the most recent pictures of them, he realized yet again that, in the grand scheme of things, he hadn’t known him for all that long.
‘Well, it feels like it’s been forever…’
For a moment he paused. His eyes focused on a picture of him and San-Kyung at twelve, wearing their Deatrou uniforms. Something flashed in his head. It felt like a memory and he tried to focus on it. He gasped.
‘Wait a second…that can’t be a memory. I’m thinking of San-Kyung as an adult, even though I know very well he isn’t yet….then again, in those nightmares I have, San-Kyung is an adult…what is this? Why is this coming back to me!? Why am I thinking about it in the first place!?’
The sight of the pictures of him and San-Kyung at Deatrou started to depress him. He closed the book and laid on his bed.
‘I can’t have memories of San-Kyung as an adult! That would make no sense!’

He wasn’t sure what happened, but a moment later he found himself opening his eyes. He was surrounded by a scenery similar to the one he usually saw in his nightmares. Standing a short distance away from him was San-Kyung and himself, both slightly taller and looking slightly older.
‘What the…?’
“Can you be happy for me, San-Kyung?” He heard himself say. His voice was only slightly deeper than it was now, but it sounded almost foreign to him. It wasn’t like in his nightmares at all. “I don’t want you to force it if that’s the only way you will be. But if you can be genuinely happy, then please, be happy. Normally I talk about all these things I want on my birthday, but today, that’s all I want. It may sound cheesy, but I want to see you smile and laugh and be happy for once! ….San-Kyung? Did you hear me?”
“I heard.”
“Can you do that? Or will you be sad today? Tell me so I know…”
“I can be happy! I mean, I’ll be spending time with you…..er, I guess that depends on what you want to do.”
“What I want to do? Well, what do you want to do?”
“Me…?”
“You hardly had a good birthday at all this year because you were so sad. I want to make up for it somehow. Granted, we can’t exactly go and do things that would get us in jail, but if I can just do something for you…”
“…” San-Kyung stared at the ground. The corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile. “Thanks. The sentiment means something. As far as I’m concerned, do what you want, and I’ll be with you. If you really want my input, then can we not do something like volunteer at a soup kitchen…?”
“I never intended to.”
“Alright. Yeah, I’m starting to feel a little better. You know, I think it’s more depressing for me to be all….depressed than it is for me to at least be positive. Maybe someday I’ll get my dream. I mean, hell, you said there was a place interested in your species knowledge, right?”
“They haven’t gotten back to me yet, but they said I had a lot of potential and that they wanted to see what I could contribute. I agree, San-Kyung. If I can reach my dream, then so can you. It can’t be that far out of reach!”
‘What are these?’ Again he found himself put-off by the scene. San-Kyung always seemed so sad in his nightmares and it was no different here, a far cry from the confidence he was used to him displaying. Something felt different about the nightmares aside from his friend’s attitude and their older ages. He couldn’t place his finger on what.
‘I guess…if I have to see this, it’s more pleasant than seeing him die…’
He glanced back up, only to recoil as he saw San-Kyung fall off a familiar building. It felt like he hardly had enough time to close his eyes and cower at the sight of his friend smashed against the sidewalk. It was a sight he lived far too often in his dreams. He started to cry.
‘But why? Why am I so paranoid about this!? It’s not like San-Kyung’s gonna die, and I’m no future prophet! I can’t stand it!’
He felt deeply connected to the event itself, as if he had experienced it and was just having residual nightmares about it. It hurt him each time it came to him. The situation was reminding him of the first day he had the nightmare, only a few months after he had become San-Kyung’s friend. Ever since it hadn’t left him alone, and it had only gotten worse earlier in the year.
He let himself cry. He felt in-sync with his older self, who was also letting himself cry as he stared at a knife on his night desk.

***

When Dosa-Mina woke up, he saw his mother. Her hand was extended; Dosa-Mina could feel it on his forehead.
“Mom?”
“Shh.” She put a thermometer in his mouth, waited, then took it out. “Hm. I guess it’s not as bad as I thought, but….”
Dosa-Mina glanced at the clock. He gasped when he noticed how many hours later it was. “Mom, I–”
“Dosa-Mina, are you feeling alright?”
“I feel fine!”
“You don’t feel warm or anything?”
“Only a little. But that’s normal! What happened to the time!? Did I go to school?”
“No, you didn’t. You passed out and wouldn’t respond when I called you. You felt a little clammy, so I called and said you weren’t feeling too well. I’m glad to hear you’re not going to be bedridden, but what a thing to happen today of all days…”
“Ohh…”
“Don’t worry. I called San-Kyung too. He said he could still come by after school, and it’s almost over. So you can still see him. I swear, Dosa-Mina! Spring’s well underway and you’re still wearing long sleeves all the time! That’s why you’re passing out like this!”
“Should I wear lighter shirts?”
“You have plenty of short-sleeved ones that you haven’t worn at all since last year!”
“But I like long sleeves…”
Elai-Riya rolled her eyes. “I know you do. But you need to be more cautious. Next time if you sweat so much and go into an air-conditioned room you might really get sick.”
“Sorry…”
“Don’t be.” Elai-Riya kissed his forehead. “I’m just glad you woke up. Wouldn’t do if you stayed asleep all day, right? I see you were looking through your books.”
“Yeah…”
“It’s hard for me to believe that it was fifteen years ago that I gave birth to you…I know it’s cliché to say, but I can still remember when you were little.” She grabbed Dosa-Mina’s picture book and glanced through it. “You were such a cute baby…really, both me and your father wish you’d stay in your true form more often. I understand why you want to be in Normal form now, but when you were born that’s how you looked, so it’s a little weird to us…”
Dosa-Mina bowed his head. “Oh, but I don’t want to upset you. Stay in any form you like today; it’s your birthday! And I’m making feather soup. Well, your father took over, but we can eat it as soon as San-Kyung gets here, all right?”
“Okay.”
“Cheer up, Dosa-Mina. Today’s a special day. Take advantage of it!” She stood up and fluttered out the room. Dosa-Mina sighed.
“Well, I guess I got my wish of missing school today.” As he thought on what had happened, he reached for his locked notebook, unlocked it, and began to write down what he had seen in his dream. By the time he was finished, he heard the front door open, and he got off his bed and ran to the living room.
“Hello, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung gave a light wave. “I hope you’re hungry. We’re making plenty of feather soup right now and I’m sure Dosa-Mina would love it if you ate with us.”
“I would!”
San-Kyung blinked at him. “…I heard you were sick.”
“Oh, I’m not that sick. Just a little overheated. I’ll be okay. Say, how was school? La-Iin still irritating?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Without you there she tried to take your seat…hate to say it, but I was grateful that that little friend of hers dragged her away…”
“Fer-Shi’s got a good heart.”
“Is La-Iin that girl who you sang to?”
“Yes…”
San-Kyung thrust a present into Dosa-Mina’s face. “Don’t open it until you get back to your bedroom.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Okay! Thaaank you!”
“Feather soup’s done!” Orlin-Aesth called. Elai-Riya beckoned the two boys to the dining room. San-Kyung sat down in the chair next to Dosa-Mina.
“I’m glad you’re here, San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina was feeling a little down not too long ago, but you seem to have perked him up completely.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond, only started to smile. “I can hardly ever be sad around San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina chirped. “Hey, Dad, can I have a big bowl?”
Orlin-Aesth nodded and pulled out a bigger bowl, then ladeled soup into it. He put the bowls down in front of the people at the table. A feather flew up from Dosa-Mina’s bowl. He blew it away.
“San-Kyung, you eat so tidy. Dosa-Mina has told us about your…er, place on the morality scale, so it’s a bit of a surprise to hear that you attend school whenever you can, to see you eat so tidy….and you’re always so polite around us.”
San-Kyung didn’t repsond. He glanced at Dosa-Mina briefly. Dosa-Mina smiled. “Hey, I know a way that makes feather soup taste even better.” He spooned up some liquid and brought it towards San-Kyung. San-Kyung stared at him like he was crazy.
“Come onnn!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes and drank off the spoon. Dosa-Mina felt satisfied.
“You two sure act like a couple sometimes….” Orlin-Aesth said. Dosa-Mina dropped his spoon and San-Kyung started to choke on the liquid. Dosa-Mina pounded his back.
“Ow! Ow! Too rough! Too rough!”
“Ah, sorry!”
“What the hell was that for!?”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya gave each other surprised glances. “….sorry. That was kinda out of place…”
“Blame this guy,” San-Kyung rasped. He took a deep breath. “Damn it, that nearly killed me…”

After the two had eaten, Dosa-Mina invited San-Kyung to his room. Before he left, his parents caught him and handed him a present, which he had opened on the spot. Inside was a book.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! This is that book! Oh my gosh, thank you!”
“You’re welcome!” Orlin-Aesth laughed.
“I wanted to read this so badly, but the library didn’t have it! Now I own it and it’s all mine!”
“We’re happy that you’re happy,” Elai-Riya said.
Dosa-Mina hugged them both tight. “I am going to read this as soon as I get the chance.”
“Heh! We figured we should get you another novel for the bookshelves! You’re still a kid, Dosa-Mina. You can take breaks from studying once in a while.”
“That I will.” He smiled at the book. “Come on, San-Kyung, let’s go! I have some things I want to talk to you about!”
“Sure.”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya waved as the two boys headed off to Dosa-Mina’s bedroom. As soon as they were in, Dosa-Mina locked the door.
“Are you planning to kill me?” San-Kyung asked.
“No no no no no! I just had to do this because our conversation might get sort of serious. And if it does that, I don’t want Mom and Dad to hear. They were so happy that you were coming since I’m always so happy around you…”
“Is that so.” San-Kyung glanced at the bed. “What’s with all the books?”
“I went to bed early yesterday and got up early today, so I was reading and looking through pictures. You were so cute at eleven! Too bad I don’t have earlier pictures of you, but you can see earlier pictures of me.” He opened up the book to the first page.
“…”
“Why are you glaring at it like that?”
“No reason…..er, I guess I kind of expected to see you in your Normal form…”
“I didn’t even know I could use that power when I was a baby. I was too concerned with baby stuff. That wasn’t until I was like…five? And I didn’t start full-time even then.”
“You were full-time by the time I met you.”
“I know.” He sighed and flipped through the book. “I think it’s kind of fitting that the two of us ended up friends. If I wasn’t skeptic on whether fate exists or not, I’d say it was that. But think about it. We’re a boy who’s self-conscious because he can’t be in his true form, and a boy who’s self-conscious about his true form. We kind of compliment each other.”
“…” San-Kyung was staring at the pictures. “…you have pictures from Deatrou?”
“Yup! We may not have been there for long but I still keep them in here. You look good in a uniform. But you dress pretty fancy now for just going to school.”
“I like these clothes.”
“So do I! They’re nice.” Dosa-Mina sighed as he reached the end of the picture book. “Now I should probably get around to the more serious talk…this is something I really didn’t want to talk to you about, but then again, I never really wanted to talk to anyone about it. I trust you the most out of all my friends, and I don’t want Mom and Dad to get concerned. Besides, this sort of has to do with you. I’m warning you though, I might break down or something. If that happens please get my parents. I don’t want to say too much.”
“Yes?”
Dosa-Mina sighed. ‘How do I put this without saying too much?’ “Um…gosh, I never thought I’d admit this….I have some….weird dreams about you, on occasion.”
When he turned back to San-Kyung, he noticed that he had backed away from him. “When I say weird dreams, that’s not what I mean. By weird I mean the both of us look like adults in those dreams…I have these sorts of dreams really often. And they feel like actual memories at times. I don’t know what to make of them, so I figured you might be able to…”
“Able to what? Make something of that? Just how long have you been having these dreams, Dosa-Mina?”
“Since before I was thirteen….”
“Well, what am I supposed to think about this? Apparently you’ve been having dreams about us as adults. But what kinds of dreams?”
‘Nightmares?’ He wanted to say. But he didn’t want to scare him. “Just…dreams. I’m sorry, I thought it was weird that I had a dream about my birthday today of all days….” ‘This really was a mistake…’ “It just keeps making me feel uncomfortable. And uncertain. But I guess it was stupid to bring up…”
“No, it wasn’t. I’m sorry I was no help…”
“Oh, it’s fine! I’ve dealt with being confused about this before, I can go on that way. Maybe I should ask my parents if they can take me to a psychiatrist or something…” The memory of San-Kyung’s body popped into his mind, and he nearly jumped off the bed.
“Are you alright!?”
“I’m fine! Honest! I just got scared…”
“Then why are there tears in your eyes?”
“I got scared!”
San-Kyung looked away from him and at the present in his hands. “Open it now.”
“Huh?”
“Open. It. Now.”
“Alright, alright…” He tore open the present. He could feel something soft inside. He pulled out a large scarf. At first it had seemed averagely large, but as he pulled it out he noticed just how big it was.
“Wha…what the…”
“Me and my mom made that. Sort of. We didn’t start exactly from scratch, but that’s unimportant. I know it’s ridiculously large. But I didn’t want to cut it. Sorry.”
“Ooh….it’s so big it could wrap up both you and me! Damn it! If only it was winter! Then this would be perfect!” He wrapped the scarf around his neck, then wrapped it around San-Kyung’s. He grabbed the book his parents had given him. “This would make a perfect picture!”
“I guess so.”
“But we should totally walk around together in this in the Winter!”
“Are you serious!? People already get the wrong idea about us as it is!”
“You don’t care about other people, so what does their opinion matter to you? Speaking of….today was a day I wanted to shower you in affection! And now I can!” He hugged tight to San-Kyung and started to tickle him.
“He-hey! St-stop that!”
“Okay then!” He started to tickle his collarbone. San-Kyung started to laugh so hard that he fell over and had to catch his breath.
“Now isn’t that pleasant?”
“You….you suck,” San-Kyung giggled.
The two laughed together. To Dosa-Mina, that was the happiest moment of his birthday.
It was abruptly interrupted by his parents pounding on the door.

—–
“Now I have a new picture for the picture book!”
“My face looks ridiculous.”
“So what?”
San-Kyung growled.
“I love it. I love the scarf, I love the book, I love today…..now, I love it all!”

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