The La-Iin Series
“La-Iin….” A familiar voice wheezed.
“What is it, Fer-Shi? Did you want to be let out of the cage again? Maybe next time you won’t consider trying to convert my children to good.”
“You shouldn’t ignore me, La-Iin…” Fer-Shi sighed. “Even like this, I’m still staying by your side. But all you ever do is spend time with San-Kyung and your children. You barely come to see me anymore…”
“I’m not ignoring you,” she said.
“It feels like you’re becoming distant….are you, are you worried about how you’ll feel when I die?”
“Because….you’re still young….you’re going to live lots of years, but I don’t have as many left….neither does San-Kyung or your mother. Are you trying to stay close to your kids because they’ll outlive you? Because you’ll have them for all the rest of your life?”
“Stop talking nonsense.”
“I’m not…” She sighed. “Don’t ignore the people you love, La-Iin…that’ll make you feel worse when we go. I know you really well from our childhood. No matter how much you pick on me, you still love me. If for nothing else, please do this because I’ll be lonely if you don’t? You still care about me, right…?”
“…” La-Iin stared down at her feet. “I’ll do that only when you’ve learned your lesson.” She spread her wings and took off. Behind her, she could hear Fer-Shi still talking to her as her voice faded into the background.
“I’ll stay with you when all the other people start to die…I’ll stay as long as I can manage, so please don’t ignore me, La-Iin….”
La-Iin landed nearby another familiar cage. She threw a dress into it.
“….how am I supposed to change inside this cage?” Mit-Sun asked.
“I gave you one of the tallest cages I had. There should be room.”
“…I’ll change later….thanks, I guess.”
“I have other people to attend to,” she said. She spread her wings once again.
La-Iin hesitated where she stood.
“You have been making sure to take care of your bonds, right?”
“Maybe it hurts to you if you’re close to someone and then they die. But if you were close to someone, cut off ties and then lose them…it might hurt even more. I was thinking about how you felt when Choungetsu died….you left him with me while you took on the world with San-Kyung. And then when you realized you weren’t there for him when he was sick, when you realized you hadn’t seen him in years and the next time you did, he was a corpse–”
“I’m always prepared for death,” she said. “I see it every day. With the world as hell of course people die every day. …so it doesn’t really affect me, don’t worry,”
“I just care about you, La-Iin,” she said. “Other people may say I’m crazy for feeling, but I’m not a cold mother. I could never stop loving you, no matter what you did….and with what you’ve done if you were a stranger I’m sure I’d have tried to commit suicide by now just to escape you…”
“….you always were one of the more loyal ones,” she whispered to herself. “Maybe I should let you out again soon.”
“I’d really appreciate that,” she said, her voice rasping. “Stay safe.”
La-Iin took off towards another cage.
“Clean yourself off, Dosa-Mina,” she said, tossing a wet rag at him. “It’s too disgusting to look at you when you’re all dirty like that.”
“Right…I think I’ll wait until you’re gone, though…”
“…are you sick, Dosa-Mina?” She accused.
“It’s hard to imagine not being sick in this hellhole,” he sighed. “So probably. But thank you for the rag. I’d like to look as presentable as possible for when I get to see San-Kyung again…”
“Hmph. Just clean yourself off.”
“….can I say something first?”
La-Iin gave him a blank stare.
“Have you really steeled yourself as much as you think you have? Are you really going to be ready for when San-Kyung dies?”
“Shut up, Dosa-Mina. You’ll be dead before him.”
“That’s probably right…I’m sure if a skilled doctor from the old world were here, they’d say I have stage five everything…but, when you’re teetering on the precipice of death almost every day, you think about it a lot. Which was why I asked, because I’m worried.”
“If you worry about me I’ll drop dead before even you do.”
“No you won’t,” he said. “Just…how will San-Kyung take my death? We’re still close even in this world, even if not as much as we used to be…he might not help you if he’s too depressed.”
“He’ll get over you. So either drop dead soon or wait until he’s older and can barely do anything anyway.”
“I think I should wait given the circumstances, not that you really can with death…by the way, the same goes for you too, La-Iin.”
“Don’t handle San-Kyung’s death poorly. After he dies you have what…nine-hundred and something or so years left in you? I don’t remember anymore. Anyway, you have to be there for your children because they’ll be put through that same kind of nightmarish situation. They’ll be grieving too. And with the world the way it is, you can’t try and put it back to how it used to be….I guess what I’m trying to say is, steel yourself and really mean it. Don’t lie to yourself. You’ll only hurt yourself if you lie to yourself about that.”
“…you make no sense.” La-Iin spread her wings. “Just clean yourself off.” She flew away.
“Oh, look who decided to show up,” Ai-Reia scoffed. “Here to mock me in some way again?”
“Only waiting to see if you feel loyal to me yet.”
“You can forget about that. You want me to take your side. When I don’t, I get the cage….it’s horrible in here, I hope you know. So you can forget about having me help you.”
“Then until you decide to, you can forget about freedom.”
“You’re such an idiot.”
La-Iin glared at her.
“You know, though….being stuck here has given me lots of thinking time. And I’m wondering, do you only want my help because I’ll live long like you?”
“When you decimate parts of the world, San-Kyung or one of your children is normally with you, correct? And yet you still want me despite having those five. I think the truth is, you can’t do it all alone. For some reason you always feel the need to take someone with you. San-Kyung will die long before you do, and once he’s gone you’re screwed. If your children need to do something else, you have nobody. I, on the other hand, will live almost as long as you will and basically have no place in this world anymore. I would be perfect for you. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the only reason you want me.”
“You evidently still need more time in the cage,” La-Iin scoffed.
“Huh,” Ai-Reia scoffed back. “Bet I was right on the bulls-eye, wasn’t I?”
“You think you’re so smart just because people called you a child prodigy, but in my world, you’re just stupid.” La-Iin turned away from her and flew off before she could speak another word.
“Hello, Sale-Dessu. How are your studies?”
“…fine,” he mumbled.
“Tell me of any notable findings you make,” she said.
“So nothing today?”
La-Iin nodded. “Alright….” She turned away to fly off.
“What? You didn’t keep anything from me, did you?”
“…make sure you stay happy so that you have no regrets. In your world, so many people will have regrets. If you’re going to do this to us all, then make sure you have no regrets. There are many out there who would resent you for it…”
“I can’t think of anything I would regret,” she said.
“Maybe not now,” he said. “But you still have time for regrets…make sure they don’t happen.”
La-Iin gave a small nod, though she wasn’t sure why. She was already certain she would have no regrets. She flew off, taking one more glance back at Sale-Dessu.
‘He seems more off than usual….’
On her way back home, La-Iin had been stopped by Asul-Zenza in the sky. “May I talk to you for a moment?”
“You’re happy, right?”
“You’re staying close with your friends and family?”
“La-Iin…make sure you keep that up. Stay close with the people you love who will live shorter. I’ll stay by you no matter what you do, but others won’t be able to survive as long as I can. I know I won’t be around forever either, but I’ll stick around as long as I can. So don’t worry about me, and make sure to stay close with everyone else.”
“I believe you. I just wanted to remind you. And one more thing, before you go.”
“Smile more, alright? I don’t want to see my daughter with a frown so often.”
“I only frown so people will take me seriously.”
“Is that so…well, at least, try to manage a smile around me, if it’s possible? I like your smiles.”
“I know you do.”
“…you can’t regret this world now, La-Iin,” Asul-Zenza said. “Fixing it would probably take the entire lifespan of some of the people you’re close to. Mit-Sun’s at least, I can imagine. So…do your best to stay happy in whatever way’s best, even if this world isn’t quite what you want anymore.”
“…” La-Iin gave a small nod to Asul-Zenza before flying off.
“Welcome back. How was today?”
“Are you sure nothing happened? You seem like you have something on your mind.”
“You’ll live long, won’t you, Bes-Isa?”
“I’m a V-Puppet. There’s sort of only one way we can really die for certain, so yes.”
“Why? Did someone die?”
“No…I was just thinking about it.”
“Is someone sick? Did it cross your mind for some random reason?”
“It’s not important, Bes-Isa,” she snapped. She stopped by a tall window with a large view of the city.
“Do you like this world, Bes-Isa?”
“I guess. Don’t you?”
“I guess….I should see San-Kyung now. We have to talk about what we should do next…”
“I suppose you do. Go on and talk to him then. Don’t be a stranger, alright?”
“…I won’t be.”
La-Iin spread her wings and flew to her and San-Kyung’s room. San-Kyung was sitting on a chair, his head bowed. La-Iin landed next to him.
“Wake up, San-Kyung,” she whispered. “We need to talk.”
San-Kyung lifted his head slightly. The room was too dark for her to see his face. All she could see was a single green eye peeking out from under his hair, focused on her.
“Don’t cry when I go, La-Iin,” he said. “Don’t….”
La-Iin sat up abruptly in bed with a gasp. She was exhausted, and it was still dark outside, but her heart was thudding so hard in her chest that it almost hurt.
She was terrified, but she wasn’t sure why, as already the dream was starting to fade away. What she could remember left her with a question.
‘….why did I have that dream?’