The La-Iin Series
“Are you ready?”
“I’m ready! Let’s do this, Father!”
Ever since that brief exchange, Sale-Dessu had been enacting the final part of his V-Puppetry project–transferring Eul-Bok’s consciousness into the new vessel he had prepared for him. The procedure had been taking hours, and Sale-Dessu had to keep his focus on it the whole time.
‘This almost takes as much out of me as Hex Change Operation…’ His breathing had become ragged and loud, and on occasion Eul-Bok would let out whimpers and startle Sale-Dessu, which made it worse. His whole body ached and felt as if he had just run a long marathon and used many powers at the same time. Mentally and physically, he was drained, and his focus on the project at hand was getting harder to keep.
But whenever his thoughts tried to stray, he reminded himself of each day he had spent with Eul-Bok–the first day they had spent together, all the times he had consoled him when he became sad, and all the things he had dreamed of letting Eul-Bok do. Those things fueled him to keep going even when exhaustion threatened to overtake him.
“I’m warning you, Eul-Bok. This is a dangerous procedure and obviously I’ve never done it before. I don’t know if you’ll actually survive this.”
“I think I’ll be fine, Father. You’re the strongest Warlock I know. Even if you are probably a little weaker than Grepeta.”
“That’s not a surprise. She’s leagues better than me…” He had looked away from Eul-Bok. “But, I don’t want to get you killed, Eul-Bok…while I really want to do this, I also really want your confirmation that this is exactly what you want.”
“It is, Father. And if I don’t make it, I’m still valuable research information. But I’m confident I will survive. I consent, Father.”
“Then, if you’re really alright with it…we’ll do it.”
Sale-Dessu recalled their earlier exchange as he continued on. Breathing felt near impossible by this point in the procedure, and tears were streaming from his eyes. Pressure was building all over his body and Sale-Dessu began to fear that he would soon start to bleed. Still he pressed on.
‘I’ll go down with Eul-Bok if I have to.’ That one thought had crossed his mind during the procedure, but now, Sale-Dessu was beginning to fear it would actually come true.
In that room of Sale-Dessu’s house, an immense amount of power had built. It reached a peak and then began to fizzle. At that moment Sale-Dessu’s sight failed him, and shadows building at the corners of his eyes quickly advanced until his sight went dark.
Sale-Dessu felt he had relived almost every moment of his life in the span of two hours by the time he woke up. Rheum had built around his eyes and his whole body throbbed with pain. It took him what felt like a half-hour before he could actually sit up to observe the situation around him.
The room seemed mostly undisturbed after the procedure, save for a few items that were thrown around now. Sale-Dessu gasped when he noticed the bodies lying nearby–one the body he had always known to be Eul-Bok’s, and the other one the new body he had prepared for him.
Neither body looked disturbed, but Sale-Dessu still stayed fixed to the floor in fear, for there was no guarantee Eul-Bok had survived the procedure. Neither body was reacting in any way.
‘Please, please still be in this body.’ He performed the hand motions to wake a V-Puppet, but Eul-Bok’s plush body did not respond. His dread was starting to build as he went over to the new body.
He half-expected for Eul-Bok to wake right that moment. Save for his ball joints, Eul-Bok looked like a normal Warlock, fast asleep. But there were no signs of life. Sale-Dessu felt cold as he tapped Eul-Bok’s face, hoping for a reaction from him.
But nothing happened.
Tears blurred over his vision and his breath caught in his throat. The idea of Eul-Bok not having survived the procedure seemed unreal to him. But by now, it seemed that was the case, so he sat there in shock, unable to see his new body clearly.
The room fell silent, and Sale-Dessu was alone in the quiet, the weight of what had just happened feeling like it would crush him. Carefully, he tidied Eul-Bok’s body to make it look more like he was asleep, hoping that would reassure him, but instead it only made the reality feel more obvious.
Now he felt a feeling he hadn’t felt before. Parts of it felt similar, but one thing in particular was hurting him most.
The knowledge that this was not a case of not being there to save his loved one, and that instead, he had sent him to his death by performing the procedure in the first place. Had he not tried to make Eul-Bok autonomous in this way, he would still be here.
Hours seemed to have passed, and Sale-Dessu still hadn’t moved from his spot. Although his body still ached from the procedure, he barely felt it while so lost in the memory of what had just happened.
He shut his eyes tight. He contemplated whether he should teleport over to Eir-Tyuj’s house to seek consolement from her. But thinking on that only reminded him of her age, and in how dangerous a situation she was with her identity being open.
‘Everyone I love seems to die,’ he thought to himself. ‘And always, it’s because of something I probably could have done differently. If I had been smarter, or just been alert…’
He opened his eyes, feeling that the most comfort he would get now would be from going to lie in his bed, when he met wide green eyes that were staring directly at him.
“Father, what’s wrong?”
The voice was weak and didn’t sound quite as it used to. But Sale-Dessu recognized it all too well.
The body that had been lying down with his hands folded across him was now sitting up and staring at him, his eyes even blinking once. Sale-Dessu’s vision began to blur over worse.
“Father, are you okay?”
“Eul-Bok, I…I thought you had died!”
“I’m okay,” he said. “But are you gonna be? You look like you just relived your childhood!”
“I…” Sale-Dessu trailed off. He was so overtaken with joy that Eul-Bok was alive that he had almost forgotten what the project had been for in the first place. But he wasn’t sure quite how to react just yet, and his first instinct was to hug Eul-Bok close.
Eul-Bok didn’t respond that time save for a squeak.
It took a while for Sale-Dessu’s emotions to stabilize enough for him to talk again, but Eul-Bok stayed still that entire time, and let out a sigh of relief when he finally let go of him.
“Did you do all that crying because you thought I died?”
“You don’t understand, Eul-Bok. I’ve dealt with death before, and I’ve blamed myself for it so many times, but just then, just then…I thought I murdered you, I…”
“I’m fine, Father! Please don’t start crying again. I’m not sure I can take it.”
“You talk normally now,” he chuckled. “Your voice doesn’t sound warped at all.”
“Yeah, it sounds so weird. Actually, I feel really weird.”
“Speaking of that!” Sale-Dessu gasped. “Can you move? Can you stand? Was the project a success?”
“Um…” Eul-Bok stared at his arm, and Sale-Dessu watched in awe as he lifted it up in front of his face. Eul-Bok began to grin.
“I can move!”
“You can move!”
Sale-Dessu threw up his hands, ready to wrap Eul-Bok in a hug, when Eul-Bok did the same. Sale-Dessu gave another chuckle. “You were happy too, weren’t you?”
“Uh, no, I didn’t do that of my own voliton!” He said. “I was happy, though. But when you threw up your arms just now, it felt the same as when I was in that body…”
Eul-Bok trailed off and began to stare at his old plush body. He crawled over to it, unstable as if each movement felt unnatural to him, and picked it up, dropping it at first but soon holding it in the palm of his hand.
“It’s so weird…”
“So if I make a big movement, you make that same movement?” Sale-Dessu asked. “Oh, um….sorry to interrupt.”
“No, it’s nothing, really,” Eul-Bok said. “Just weird to see yourself lying there, is all. And, uh, I guess? You can try it again if you want.”
To test, Sale-Dessu stood up abruptly. Eul-Bok followed.
“But you can still move on your own, right?”
“Didn’t you see me just now?” Eul-Bok said cheerfully. He started to smile. “Oh, Father, I’m so happy! Now I can move around and be like your actual son! I…I….you did something amazing, Father!”
“And amazingly dangerous,” Sale-Dessu sighed.
“But nobody else has been able to make a V-Puppet autonomous before, have they? You’re the very first! It’s amazing! I was right to trust you, Father. With someone as powerful as you, how could I have died?”
“You put too much faith in me,” he said.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I have no faith in you when it comes to your social skills,” he said playfully. Sale-Dessu began to toy with a mat.
“I guess I have to get ready for the new autonomous Eul-Bok,” he said.
“It’ll be fun, Father,” Eul-Bok said. “I’m really looking forward to this. Hey, can we tell La-Iin and Bes-Isa?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Yay! I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces!”
Sale-Dessu smiled. The immense sadness and immense joy he had felt earlier had dissipated into a relaxed happiness as he watched Eul-Bok gush about his new life. His heart felt at ease and he was happy.
It was one of the best moods he had been in in his life.
La-Iin stared wide-eyed at Eul-Bok the moment she saw him and her expression had not changed since then.
“You…you actually did it! You made him autonomous!”
All three around her could only wonder what Bes-Isa was feeling at that moment.
“Now I could throw you if I want,” Eul-Bok said.
“You won’t throw Bes-Isa,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I could, though,” Eul-Bok said.
“How did you…”
“A long, painful procedure,” Sale-Dessu replied. As he spoke, La-Iin noticed that he looked exhausted. “Eul-Bok almost didn’t make it out. Well, he says he made it out fine, but he wasn’t responding at first. And he still responds to my movements when they’re sudden enough.”
Sale-Dessu lifted his hand high up into the air in one swift motion. Eul-Bok did the same.
“I can’t believe this. I could finally become autonomous if I wanted to.”
La-Iin wanted to protest, but she kept her mouth shut. Still, watching Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, her heart felt heavy, and she felt as if now she would have no choice but to eventually let go of Bes-Isa.
“You could. But you’d need a new body and I think the procedure has a chance of failing. So you would have to be really sure. I’m not kidding when I say this! I’m not going to be responsible for a V-Puppet’s death or any sort of disappointment you might feel as a result.”
La-Iin snapped her fingers.
“Why did you put her to sleep?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“No reason,” La-Iin said gruffly. “I’m going home.”
She stomped out the Astineth house with Bes-Isa in tow. Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok were confused as they watched her off.
‘I’m just going to lose Bes-Isa now. Now I won’t even have her when everyone else dies.’ Her eyes started to sting. ‘I hate Sale-Dessu! I wish he’d never succeeded! I wish Eul-Bok had just died!’