28.362.Down Neighborhood’s Lane

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 362
“Down Neighborhood’s Lane”

The Sanhuun family trudged through the snow toward the Cahongyun house. Even dressed as warmly as they could manage, they still felt cold.
“It’s really thick over here!” Tei-Sheu exclaimed. “I thought it was bad in our neighborhood!”
“I hope La-Iin can get out,” Fer-Shi said. Snow was piled in front of the door to the Cahongyun house. Fer-Shi kicked at it to see how soft it was. Some of the snow spattered into her parents’ faces and they started to sputter.
“I’m sorry!” Fer-Shi exclaimed.
“It’s not a problem,” Den-Matsu said. “But why’d you do that, Fer-Shi!?”
“I was just worried….look at all that snow in front of La-Iin’s house! Do you think they’ll be able to get out?”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Den-Matsu said. He finally stopped trudging in front of the door. “If not, we’ll help them get out.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Fer-Shi breathed. “Still, there’s just so much snow over here…”
Den-Matsu knocked on the door. All three members of the family waited patiently in front of the door. Finally, it started to open, only to get jammed.
“Can you help us out here?” Mit-Sun’s voice said from inside the house.
“Sure!” At once Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu began to scoop snow away from the door. Fer-Shi managed to avoid getting hit with any clumps, and she soon went to help her parents.
“This is ridiculous,” the Sanhuuns heard La-Iin said from inside. “Can’t we just light a fire and burn the snow away?”
“Snow doesn’t burn, La-Iin.”
“I mean melt.”
“No, we can’t…” Mit-Sun sounded as if she had more to say to her daughter, but before she could continue the door opened just enough for the two to step outside. Both were as bundled up as all the Sanhuuns were, La-Iin perhaps even moreso, though her wings were exposed and she was obviously shivering.
“Hi, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi said, giving her friend a hug. La-Iin quickly returned it before breaking away. “Was it scary being snowed in?”
“It was mostly boring.”
“Not even a little scary?” Fer-Shi asked. “I was scared and I’m older than you. You must be really fearless about these kinds of things…”
“I think La-Iin just cares more about whether she’s having fun or not than whether she can actually get outside,” Mit-Sun sighed. “But it’s good to see you three. I think it’s been too long since we all met up in person…”
“Good to see you too again, Mit-Sun,” Den-Matsu said. “Though…you look tired. Have you been getting enough sleep?”
“I’ve been doing fine. It’s mostly just random stresses here and there wearing on me, like the snowstorm, ha ha…I got a lot less sleep when La-Iin was a baby, so what I get now feels like a lot. She’s a hard child to sleep soundly with, but she does go to bed fairly early.”
“Stop talking about me so much, Mama!” La-Iin complained.
“It’s just a fact,” she said simply.
“May we come inside, Mit-Sun?” Tei-Sheu asked. “It’s really cold outside. I think my nose is frozen…”
“Sure, you can come in. Also, La-Iin and I had cinnamon soup yesterday. I can make some for you three if you’d like.”
“That sounds good!” Fer-Shi squeaked. La-Iin side-stepped next to her and whispered into her ear, “It’s not as good as you might think it sounds. It’s full of little particles that taste like dust.”
“Are you just saying that to be mean?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Maybe.”
As soon as they walked in the house, Choungetsu ran up to La-Iin, carrying his leash in his mouth. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“I’m not taking you outside,” she snapped. “It’s too cold. Do you want to freeze too, or are you mocking me because you have fur?”
Choungetsu’s expression became dejected and he sat down, staring at her with wide eyes and ears folded to his head.
“Maybe he really has to go to the bathroom,” Fer-Shi said. “It might be better to take him out if he does…”
“Don’t forget you have to clean up after any mistakes he makes,” Mit-Sun called from the kitchen. La-Iin grit her teeth.
“Why can’t you take him out sometimes!?” La-Iin yelled. Beside her, Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu flinched. Mit-Sun began to feel flustered, and she tried to calm herself somewhat before yelling back to La-Iin,
“I’ve been taking him out a lot recently! And Asul-Zenza only gave him to you, so why should I have to watch him all hours of every day?”
La-Iin scoffed. She tore the leash from Choungetsu’s mouth and fixed it to his collar. “Fine, let’s go, Choungetsu.”
“I can go with you!” Fer-Shi said. She noticed La-Iin’s expression soften slightly. “Good. That might make this a little more bearable.”
Fer-Shi smiled as she and La-Iin walked outside. The cold didn’t even get rid of her smile. After how jealous she had felt of La-Iin’s friendship with San-Kyung, it felt great whenever her friend seemed grateful to have her.
As they walked along the sidewalk, Fer-Shi heard a voice muttering something in the backyard of a house.
“Who’s–”
“Sale-Dessu. I’ve told you about him before, right?”
“Not much…”
“Don’t worry about him. He’s easily distracted and I have him trained better than Choungetsu. He won’t do anything to you.” ‘That’s my job,’ she kept to herself.
“Okay…” Fer-Shi wasn’t sure of how to feel about La-Iin’s statement, but she followed behind her anyway. Choungetsu was shivering wildly but he continued to press on through the snow, clearing a path for the two girls, although snow still stood in their way, and Fer-Shi found herself trudging more than a few times.
“What kinds of people live in your neighborhood?” Fer-Shi asked. “I’ve never met anyone else.”
“I don’t really know, and I don’t really care. I know Sale-Dessu. Mama doesn’t even really talk to anyone else in the neighborhood. Her best friends are outside of here.”
“I see…”
“I wish I lived close to San-Kyung,” La-Iin sighed. “Then I could visit him anytime I want….already I’m able to see Sale-Dessu whenever I deem it necessary. But San-Kyung is difficult. And now I probably won’t see him until school starts again…”
La-Iin started to slow down, though Choungetsu continued to plow through the snow as if it were nothing more than dust.
“Don’t worry, La-Iin. I’m, uh…sure he’ll probably miss you too when he sees you next. You are friends, right?”
“That’s right,” La-Iin said, her tone suddenly becoming malicious. Fer-Shi flinched away from her. “And there’s no way he can take it back now. Ohh, I felt this year would bring nothing in the way of my relationship with him, but after that, who knows what next year will hold? First year is a meeting, the second is friendship. And the third could be–”
“Um!” Fer-Shi opted to interrupt La-Iin before her tirade became too disturbing. La-Iin glared at her over her shoulder. “Whatever happened to the days where you didn’t want to tell me about your crush? Why are you so open about it now?”
“Because you used to tease me about it. I don’t like being teased, it makes me angry. And when I’m angry I want to hurt people. But it’s harder to hurt you than it is most other people.”
Fer-Shi couldn’t help her smile returning, though she tried to hide it from La-Iin by covering her mouth. If La-Iin noticed, she had no reaction. “So if I started teasing you about it again, would you stop talking about it?”
“That depends. What’s the point? I think everyone in class knows about it after what I did…but that kiss was–”
“Never mind, let’s talk about something else!” Fer-Shi shook her head as she followed after La-Iin.
“I hear a new voice. Who’zat?”
Fer-Shi flinched.
“I’m assuming it’s Cahongyun’s friend, Grandma,” a Catori girl replied.
“Older one ‘er younger one?”
“The younger one, grandma.”
“Who’re they, La-Iin?” Fer-Shi asked, pointing towards the two Catori ladies.
“I don’t know. Some stupid neighbors. I told you I don’t really know anyone down this way except for Sale-Dessu, so why are you asking?”
“Sorry, I was curious…”
“I think they noticed we were talking about them, Grandma,” Fer-Shi heard the younger one say as the two walked away from the Catori ladies.
“Eh, kids these days, always so nosy.”
‘Is it nosy to wonder about La-Iin’s neighbors?’ Fer-Shi barely knew the people who lived in her neighborhood, and she wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know them–they all sort of scared her. She wondered if La-Iin’s neighborhood was much different.
La-Iin fell silent as she continued to walk Choungetsu along the sidewalk, only occasionally yelling at him when he stepped out of line. Fer-Shi kept an eye on the nearby neighbors, and noticed quite a few were outside.
She noticed two women and their young girl outside their house. The girl tossed herself into the snow and started to giggle.
“It’s so cold!” She trilled. “I love it!”
“Did you cover her enough, Alsi-Kyu?” One of the women asked.
“Sure I did. I didn’t even want her going outside today, so of course I made sure she was all bundled up. She wanted to go outside in the snowstorm yesterday…I think Oka-Nkok’s too fearless for her own good.”
Fer-Shi strained to try and hear the rest of the conversation, but the squealing of their daughter quickly drowned it out. Fer-Shi couldn’t help but think of how much fun it looked like she was having. ‘I hope the snow gets more manageable soon. Although…’ Her eyes rested on La-Iin’s wings and she sighed.
“How is the snow, my lovelies?” A man called out, catching the attention of both La-Iin and Fer-Shi. While La-Iin quickly turned away, Fer-Shi kept her eyes on the man.
“Wondrous, Gran-Howas!”
“I am pleased to hear it!” He yelled, his tone almost tearful. “Anything for you all. If there’s anything in particular you would like to do, just let me know and I will do it for you! Nothing is too good for my lovelies.”
“Thank you, Gran-Howas!”
Gran-Howas began to giggle. ‘What a strange man,’ Fer-Shi thought to herself. She couldn’t help but keep staring at him, until she crashed into a bespectacled Minomix man.
“I’m sorry!”
“How agitating,” the Minomix man sighed. “Another someone too interested in the goings-on of our neighborhood to actually care about doing anything for herself. Pathetic.”
Fer-Shi flinched.
“You should be doing something more productive with your time,” the man said. “There are plenty of things you could do that is better than merely watching–ow! Ahh, damn it!”
“Good one, Choungetsu,” La-Iin giggled as she walked back around with Choungetsu in the lead. Choungetsu began to growl at the Minomix man.
“Take better care of your dog!” The man snapped before walking off.
“La-Iin…did you do that on–”
“Where did you go? All of a sudden you weren’t behind me, so I went to go and get you. And then when we ran into that guy, Choungetsu just started getting angry at him. And Choungetsu barely ever gets angry. I bet it was his voice. Don’t worry, Choungetsu. I found it annoying too.”
Choungetsu gave a yip.
“Anyway, let’s get back to my house. I’m getting cold enough that cinnamon soup sounds good…”
Fer-Shi nodded and followed quietly behind La-Iin. As they passed by Gran-Howas again, she was tempted to glance in his direction given the noises he was making, but decided against it when she remembered the Minomix man.
She picked up speed and ran ahead of La-Iin.
“Hey!” La-Iin protested.

—–
“You make good cinnamon soup, Mit-Sun,” Den-Matsu said.
“You’ll need to give us the recipe sometime!” Tei-Sheu said.
“Sure, I can do that. I’ll just write it up sometime.”
The sound of something exploding sounded from next door. All three of them flinched.
“…um, what was that?” Tei-Sheu asked. Mit-Sun’s face contorted with worry, until she remembered who lived next door.
“It was probably nothing,” she said, trying to keep her tone light. “Some of our neighbors are….weird, to say the least.”
“Well, you’ve never seen our neighbors…” Den-Matsu said. “Yours probably pale in comparison.”
“I wonder about that,” Mit-Sun sighed.

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