Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
Wed Nov 12, 2008, 10:35 AM (This post was last modified: Sat Nov 15, 2008 02:53 PM by nightPhaser.)
Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
>> I'll be posting what I've written for this year's National Novel Writing Month. As with my pithy attempt back in 2005, I started over a week late, and this will likely not reach the word count by the end of the month. Still, it's a story.
While no prior knowledge of Shin Megami Tensei or Persona games is required, it'll definitely add to the experience. There are also some references to my previous (and incomplete) Persona 3 story but they're also inconsequential to the main story.
Hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I do writing it.
Edit: Feel free to post to this thread for comment or discussion.
CHAPTER I : SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
It begins with a single act of cruelty,
a denial of something desired,
driving a soul to seek one of two things:
another way towards what is desired,
or the annihilation of the source of cruelty.
No matter which path is chosen,
all desire fulfilled without wisdom is poison,
and all cruelty destroyed without mercy is tyranny.
These roads lead to despair.
Knowing this, I now convey to you:
Your wish is my command.
The bus screeched as it slowed down, waking up a young doberman despite the music blaring through his silver earphones. Along with a number of passengers, he stepped out of the bus. He took out a pair of suitcases from the baggage compartment, before the bus went on its way to the Larkin terminal for a fresh set of travellers. He waited at the indent of the road where the bus stop was, along with a half-dozen other arrivals. He checked the time on his wristwatch, adjusted his beige pants slightly and swept imaginary dust from his yellow T-shirt.
A compact silver four-wheel-drive Kembara blinked a turn signal and slipped out from slow but fluid traffic before stopping near him. The electric windows on the passenger side (the left) were rolled down and a black-furred wolf dressed in a mahogany cotton shirt looked at the doberman from top to toe. "Are you Dobbs?"
"Are you Encik Ezrahin?"
"Answer my question first." said the wolf, with a minor scowl.
"Yes. But it's just Dobb."
"Alright, Just Dobb." said the wolf, as he stepped out of the car. "Let's get your things into the trunk. I am Ezrahin."
Dobb looked skeptical, in addition to folding his arms in front of him. The wolf closed his eyes and shook his head. "It's either this, or you're walking the six hours to Taman Universiti." Dobb smiled. "Okay. Just so you know, I'm a black belt."
The wolf scoffed. "Really? I'm a mathematician."
The drive was quiet, though it allowed Dobb to see things along the way. Things like stretches of new highways unstained by weather, tiny malls which seemed to turn up every ten minutes along, and an incredible amount of traffic passing through a county he'd initially presumed to be rural.
"Encik Ezrahin, where are we?"
"Technically, Skudai. A few miles from Taman U." He clicked a turn signal, and changed lanes. "And it's Ezra. Just Ezra."
"Okay, Ezra. Just Ezra." The wolf glanced towards the doberman. "You don't get to be clever with me." He smiled a bit, the first time to Dobb, but it seemed strange on him. "Not yet."
The highways started giving way to smaller roads, and verdant green began to permeate the sights along the road. Dobb saw various signs pointing to several small townships that clustered around Taman Universiti, sporting names like Pulai Indah and Mutiara Rini.
"What brings you to Johor, Dobb?"
"I have a single semester to do a film project for final evaluation." he said, taking his attention off the moving scenery. "I have a script involving some scenes on the Causeway, and in Singapore. I also thought I'd shoot some over here as well."
Ezra smiled again. "Fair warning, Dobb. Nothing much happens here. Nothing that looks good enough for the camera."
Dobb nodded. "Mm-hm. So why are you picking me up, Mr. Ezra?"
"Don't call me mister either." Another turn signal, and Ezra drove onto an offramp. The sign nearby read 'Taman Universiti'. "Your pal Andy helps me with tutorial sessions. He also doesn't have a car. He mentioned you being a friend to Shuraim Mussawyr, who used to study with me. Great dog, though he gets sick way too many times for a man his age. I was reminded to get in touch with him again, thanks to your friend."
The space in the car suddenly became quiet. Ezra seemed to find a joy in the lack of conversation, without showing it on his face.
"Ezra, Shuraim's... passed away."
The wolf's face remained unchanged, though he spoke with a lower voice. "When?"
"Last year. They said his heart stopped. He died in his sleep."
The car paused at an intersection, and Ezra seemed to hold the steering wheel a bit tighter. "Inal-illah. Poor sod. I told him to take it easy." He took a right turn.
"What about Peabo?" Dobb raised an eyebrow and looked at the wolf. "You knew he was gay?" Ezra's eyes were dead set on the road, as if there was nobody in the car but him. "Anyone who mattered knew." He suddenly shot a glance at Dobb, which surprised the dog a bit. "What about Peabo?"
"I, I don't know."
They drove quietly for a few minutes. "I apologise. This is a bad conversation." Dobb adjusted himself in his seat, easing up slightly. "That's okay." He looked out at the tunnel around the road made of trees, as the wind made yellow leaves fall from them like snow.
"Ezra... this isn't Taman Universiti."
"I know. I just remembered something." He had a relaxed expression on him. "Don't worry, you'll get there safe and sound."
Walking with a slight marching gait, a tall brown-furred goat dressed in a full blue suit and a coral horizontally-striped tie held a briefcase in one hand and tucked a folder tight against his chest with the other. A young male feline and a female palm civet saw him as he went. The former wore a shirt and tie, and the latter wore a pair of traditional baju kurung, as per the student dress code on Mondays.
"G'Morning, Mister Yaali."
This brought Yaali to a complete stop. He looked at both of them and nodded. The students managed to take a single step before the man held up his hand towards them. "Wait!"
He changed the briefcase to his other hand, while carefully clipping the folder under his armpit. Yaali proceeded to tug and push the male student's tie into a perfect symmetry. This took a full five minutes. "Good."
He then walked away from a pair of puzzled students.
Yaali made his way to the cafeteria, and winced a bit before putting his foot onto the shiny tiled floors. He looked around and saw a black wolf sitting next to a doberman, and walked towards them. He bowed for a closer look at the seat, before bringing out a packet of tissues and wiping it. As he sat down, carefully setting aside his briefcase and folder, Ezra motioned to a bovine cafeteria worker to take an order.
"Tea, please." said the goat,
Yaali twitched slightly when the bovine shouted his order back to the kitchen.
"Aren't you eating anything?"
"No." he said, while staring at a spot of gravy on a far edge of the table.
Ezra was spooning coconut-cream rice, chilli paste and fried egg into his mouth, as Dobb fiddled with his plate of fried vermicelli. Soon, a cup full of piping-hot tea was placed before Yaali.
"Did you get anything from the simulation?" said Ezra, between mouthfuls of rice and fried anchovies.
"Unfortunately, the buffer overflowed after about twenty-thousand iterations." said the goat as he wiped the rim of his cup. "You may want to look over your algorithm..." He paused. "No, I will do it."
"It's okay, I'll..."
"I. Will. Do it. Ezra." said the goat, before sipping on his tea.
Ezra finished chewing on a particularly tough anchovy, before introducing Dobb to Yaali. "He's from Jakarta, doing his Computer Science postgrad while also working for the university." Dobb held out a hand to the goat, only to have him looking at it for a minute before the hand was retracted. "Pleased to meet you, as well." said the goat. Ezra fanned his mouth before he tossed back half a glass of frothing milk tea. "He's helping me with one one of my students' projects."
"By helping, he means being hired to."
"You love that kind of thing, man."
"I am merely preventing a young woman from making a mistake that will cost her a nice, productive future." he said, looking slightly uncomfortable taking in more of the tea. "Deriving joy from it is a mere side effect."
After scooping the last of the white rice into his mouth, Ezra crumpled the nasi lemak wrapper and quickly downed the last of his teh tarik. "Are you going to finish that?" he said, pointing to the half-eaten plate of noodles in front of Dobb. "Uh, why? Do you want it?" Ezra snorted. "Did you even see what I just ate? Of course not! However..." The wolf stood up. "It's time I sent you where you're supposed to be."
"Which was three hours ago." said Dobb, as he drank the last of his rose syrup.
"See you soon, Yalster!" said Ezra as they both walked away.
"Don't call me that!" shouted the goat, before flagging down a cafeteria worker to pay for his drink.
Ezra raised a hand to a guard walrus as the car passed the gateway which had the following words on it: UNIVERSITI SAINS TEKNOLOGI MALAYSIA. They drove through a curved set of roads before coming at the intersection leading to Taman Universiti, where Ezra pulled a right. A Japanese mall was to their right, on the other side of the roads, and its large maroon cube passed them by like a sentinel.
They were on a long stretch of road flanked by shoplots on one side and small factory lots on the other. Ezra made a turn at a petrol station, driving slowly until they arrived at the corner of a row of orange-roofed terrace houses.
"Is this it?"
"That's what Andy says."
Ezra honked the car horn like an impatient spouse, faster than Dobb could cover his ears. They saw a motion inside the house through the window and saw the door being opened. A young male black panther stepped out, leering cautiously at the source of the noise. They got out of the car and Ezra waved at the feline.
"Here's the mail-order bride you sent for, Andy! Turns out it's a guy!"
"Shut up, Ezra." said the panther, as he unlatched the gate. "Hey, Dobb."
"Hey." said the dog, with a smile. Andy paused for a moment. "You called to say you've arrived this morning, didn't you?"
"I actually got here before eleven, but Ezra said he hadn't had his breakfast."
"Eleven?" Andy made a questioning face towards the wolf.
"Make an issue of this and you'll have a vicious critique of your eating habits slung right back at you."
The panther merely shook his head.
"Anyway, thanks for the ride, Ezra."
"Don't mention it."
Andy helped the doberman take the suitcases out of the car, as Ezra fiddled with a handphone attached to his belt by a length of silver chain. Andy seemed to be thinking a bit before he said: "You've lived here all your life, Ezra. Maybe you could show him around this weekend."
"Come on, Ezra."
"No. After all, my time is not cheap, Andy."
"Oookay. How about dinner over at Soul's place, at least?"
Ezra looked contemplative, yet deeply unimpressed. Andy slumped.
"A delightful idea. I'd be honoured."
Ezra waved at them, as a silver ring on his finger glinted with afternoon light, and went back into his car. He promptly started the engine and turned the car around to leave the same way he arrived.
"Uh, you guys don't really have to do anything like that for me."
Andy chuckled, looking like he could easily have had a large teardrop on the back of his head. "It's okay, he always ends up paying for it himself." He started walking towards the house, carrying a suitcase.
"Come in, let me show you your room."
"Any changes on the rent?"
"Naw, you just have to chip in for utilities on top of it, and keep the place clean."
"Yesterday evening, an armed robbery of a jewellery store in downtown Johor Bahru was thwarted by an unidentified person. The three suspects were attacked as they were fleeing the scene by an assailant who later disappeared after disabling the suspects.
This is the fifth of such incidents where a similarly-described vigilante stepped in to aid the Johor Royal Malaysian Police in combating various crimes. Common folk have taken to calling the vigilante various names, from "The Angel of JB" to simply "The Raven".
Should the people of Johor Bahru still worry about increasing crime rate in the bustling city and portal to neighbouring Singapore? Hopefully, nevermore.
Stay tuned to NTV9. This has been Norliza Zaini."
The store cashier, a rotund hamster of a woman, turned her attention away from the television and towards a black wolf. "Hello. Can you check if there's a videogame you have in stock?" The cashier adjusted her glasses, and waved down another employee, a green-skinned wiry chameleon. "What are you looking for, sir?"
"Shin Kami Tensei 3."
"Please wait here a moment while I check."
Ezra leaned against a wall beside the counter, as he waited. As his eyes lingered, he noticed a tan-coloured cat with a head of black scruffy hair staring intently at a rack full of the latest DVD videogames. As he leaned in to grab one, the grey streaks in his hair became more apparent under the fluorescent lights. The cat's furrowed brows seemed to mark the selection as a failure, and he placed it back on the rack.
As the cat got near him, Ezra whistled and said: "Ryuu!" This startled the cat a bit.
"What are you looking for this time?"
"Well, Ezra, it's the new Rockman that's supposed to come out last week. I come here every day and it's not here."
"Megaman." Ryuumajin said this with a slight cringe.
When the feline sighed, Ezra smiled and ventured an option. "Why don't you ask that guy?" he said, as he pointed to a turquoise-skinned employee nearby. Ryuumajin pointed to the same person and said: "That one?"
"Yes. He's in charge of inventory, I think."
"Nice. Thanks, Ezra."
The feline walked up to the store clerk and asked him if he could check if a videogame is in stock. As the store clerk turned around to speak to Ryuumajin, he saw that the clerk, in addition to being very blue, was very frog-like.
A high-pitched scream rang through the store and Ezra laughed like a heartless bastard.
A silver car moved slowly through a street flanked by shophouses and yellow streetlights, like a crocodile in a river. "There, there's a space!" said Andy, while pointing to a cramped little gap amongst various horribly-parked vehicles. Ezra deftly swung the Kembara into place, and pulled the car into park.
The restaurant was a two-door establishment sandwiched between a pharmacy and a pirated-DVD shop. There was a sign above the entrance that said WILD SOUL'S BAR & GRILL in red and purple fluorescent letters, and a neon love child between a chilli pepper and a Jack o' Lantern blinked next to it.
As they went up the steps to the sidewalk, they saw a brown cat pass by, clutching a black plastic bag. "Assalamualaikum, Ryuu-kun." said Ezra. The stopped dead in his tracks, and turned to look his greeter. "Ezra? Hi! I mean, waalaikumussalam."
Ezra pretended to look like he just had a bright idea. "We're having dinner. Why don't you join us? My kitty friend here is paying." The cat put his hands, and the black plastic bag, behind him and shook his head. "Sorry, Ezra, I need to be somewhere. But thanks!" They watched as he went down to the street, pulled on a jacket, secured a helmet on his head, and started his motorcycle.
"Cool bike." said Dobb, as he nodded in approval.
They went in past tinted glass doors, to see that a few people were already dining in the restaurant. They chose a table and sat on sturdy teak chairs, under soft, beige lights. A Canadian flag was spread out on a wall near the bar. Dobb looked at it for a some time before saying: "That's a tad strange to find here, isn't it?"
"Not if you know the owner." said Ezra, as he flicked through a small calendar-like list of promotions and sets meals. "She moved to Malaysia from Canada, following her boyfriend who worked nights while studying in the day. Two years ago, she opened a cafe down at the Japanese mall in Taman Universiti. That's where I met her."
Andy pulled the condiment rack closer to him and started examining the three varieties of tabasco sauce.
"Things didn't work out, with both the boyfriend and the cafe, but things seemed to be going okay for her, so she stayed. She'd been playing with the idea of opening a bar, but selling spirits isn't enough to go by around here."
Ezra smiled warmly, as if he was proud of what he was about to say. "So I told her, everything in this town is for cud-chewing health freaks or penny-pinching students, and I can't find a decent steak anymore without driving for two hours."
"He gets hungry like the wolf." said a soothing voice near them. An elegantly-dressed female grey jackal, with dark brown hair accented with blue highlights, stood just beside Ezra. "Or so the song goes. Hello, welcome to Wild Soul's. I'll be taking your orders today."
"Heya, Soulie." Ezra gave her a subtle sort of flying kiss, which seemed disconcerting to both Andy and Dobb. "You know Andy. That city boy there is Dobb. I was just explaining to them about this place."
"Nice to know you. Talking history already, are we?" she said, as she handed out menus. "Ezra invested a bit into it, on top of the money I earned at the cafe. We both set up the menu and recipes. After I opened the place, Ezra helped spread word of mouth amongst some food-lovers in the university."
Dobb opened the menu and looked over the selection. He noticed an number of drawings of a cartoon moose and a cartoon chihuahua on it. "Did you draw the cartoons on this?" he asked. "Ezra did, actually."
For a while, Andy and Dobb looked at Ezra, who seemed more focused on choosing a meal than entertaining their disbelief.
"Canadian Tex-Mex, Malaysian-style. This should be... interesting." said Dobb, as he resumed looking over the menu.
Andy ordered grilled salmon and lime soda. Dobb ordered roasted chicken in adobo sauce and diet cola. Ezra ordered spare ribs, with an extra cup of barbecue sauce, and plain water. He also ordered mud pie and a quesadilla to go.
"Alright, I'll be back in a jiffy." said Soul, as she finished scribbling on her note pad. She took the menus, leaving one for them to browse, and went to the kitchen.
"I've a story about this place m'self." said Andy. "One of the guys brought my project group here for a party. Kieran had a bit too much to drink and was slobbering over every female within sight. Well, until Soul grabbed him by the neckruff and tied him up on a chair. We picked him up the morning after." He paused for a moment, and looked at Ezra thoughtfully. "I was kinda surprised to find you sitting at the bar, though. What exactly do you do there, anyway?"
"You get to know after three drinks." Ezra replied, rather blandly.
Soul returned to their table and set down three glasses. One was filled with ice-cold water, and the others were filled with ice. Then she placed down a can and a bottle with its cap already opened.
"That's bull." she said. "Ezra doesn't drink a drop of the sauce. He's a gentleman." She poured out Andy's lime soda and he thanked her. "Except that one time on Hollud's birthday party." she said, grinning slightly.
Ezra took a sip of water before saying: "They told me it was tea. I knew it smelled funny." He glared at the other two. "Do not. Ask. Any further." Dobb raised his hands and Andy stifled a chuckle.
"Oh, I just remembered. It's not just about the steak. It's the poutine."
"What's poutine?" asked Dobb.
Ezra did a slithery sort of glance towards Soul. "One, I'm not from Quebec. Two, it's not that good, and I'm speaking as the owner. Even then, you still insisted I put it on the menu." Ezra did a strange thing with his head, half-nodding and half-shaking. "Oh, okay. I'll go heat up the gravy."
"Y'hear that?" said Andy.
Dobb looked past the tinted windows, seeing the rain pouring against the road, covering the world in grey.
"Sounds real heavy."
"It's been a while since we've had a downpour like that. Gonna be nice and foggy tomorrow morning."
It is very late in the night. A middle-aged male mouse closed the door to the stairway of a shoplot, locked it up, and began the long walk home. He was half-way home when the rain fell in thick, gray sheets. He stood on the roadside and opened an umbrella before continuing to walk along the empty road. The streetlights made solid cones of yellow illumination from the heavy shower.
A gust of wind surrounded the man and damaged the spokes of his umbrella. He ran as fast and as carefully as he could towards a nearby shoplot. Under the awning, which thundered with every drop of rain, he sighed and looked at the metal skeleton in his hand. Soaking wet, he shook his legs and arms. He rubbed the sides of his body when the wind blew.
There was a noise, small but persistent, behind him. He turned around to the sight of a wall of dark, inactive television screens.
Five days passed, and the same man was now submerged in a public park fountain in Mutiara Rini. Almost all of his joints were twisted at least a hundred and eighty degrees, and some of the bones broke out of his skin.
As the gnarled, partially-bloated body was brought out of the fountain, Brian Hawkfeather noted to himself that suicide was highly unlikely. The tall, gaunt hawk-man stood over the fountain and stared at the now-murky water in it.
"One of the parents called it in this morning, when their kids passed here on the way to school." said a wide-bodied male panda with a bad combover, beside him.
"There was heavy fog this morning, from all the rain. Suspect could have done it under cover of rain and mist." he said, though a moment later he brushed the idea away, since no hand could twist anything that hard.
"This... isn't normal, Hawk."
"It certainly is creative, I'll grant that." The bird kneeled and examined the ground near the fountain, which was free of bloodstains. "For all the wrong reasons."
"I.C. says he's Hock Boon Tat, aka Jonny"
"It's on his business card."
Hawk nodded. "Hmm, I've heard of Tat. The guy wrote that article in the New Star Times about the Thailand arsenic scare last month."
"Crazy one, that. I think five companies had to close shop in this country because of it."
Hawkfeather stood up and gently patted the bear on the back. "Well, have fun drawing up the grudge list by tomorrow, then."
"What? But I have a date tonight!"
"Yes, with Google and a word processor."
The panda looked indignant for a moment, before he waved a fleshy hand. "You're harsh, y'know that?"
"The sooner you're done, the sooner you're off the taxpayers' clock."
Hawkfeather sympathised with fellow officer Ahmady's plight, but he was still looking at two other bizarre murders nobody else wanted to handle. He wonders, for a moment, if vigilantes only inspire worse criminals. The thought depresses him.
[ Proceed calmly. ]
Wed Nov 12, 2008, 02:46 PM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
Please Dont tell me that is all.....
I really wish to know what happens....
Wed Nov 12, 2008, 03:07 PM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
The lines of reality, fiction and fantasy are blurred, and I got a strange (awesomely strange) feeling after reading it though. DO WANT MOAR.
Btw, finished with your finals already, Night? Mine's over on Nov 18th and it's back to Penang for me on the next day. Let me know if you want to sneak a meetup in UTM in between those two days. Arked Meranti?
Wed Nov 12, 2008, 11:39 PM (This post was last modified: Thu Nov 13, 2008 01:11 AM by nightPhaser.)
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
(Wed Nov 12, 2008 02:46 PM)Theshadows64 Wrote: Please Dont tell me that is all..... I really wish to know what happens....
>> No, it isn't. I'll be updating it as I write more.
Thanks for showing interest. I appreciate it.
(Wed Nov 12, 2008 03:07 PM)Delta-HT Wrote: The lines of reality, fiction and fantasy are blurred, and I got a strange (awesomely strange) feeling after reading it though.
>> That first part of what you said pretty much describes some of the themes of Persona 2 and 1. Also, yes, I've been told my stories have a strange effect. >_>
Sorry, Andy-kun, I'm booked all the way to mid-December. English and Employee Training courses. I promise we'll get together more often next semester, when I'm no longer attending classes. (GAWD!)
Arked Meranti? Pffffft. I'm treating you to Amigos at Sutera Mall when I can. (The owner/chef is a jovial guy with tats on his right arm.)
[ Proceed calmly. ]
Thu Nov 13, 2008, 09:52 AM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
I'm watching this thread like a hawk.
Pssst, Yaali's speciality is Computational Linguistic, in his world he works for BABL.
I'm not good with people
Thu Nov 13, 2008, 03:34 PM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
(Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:39 PM)nightPhaserSpiral Wrote:(Wed Nov 12, 2008 02:46 PM)Theshadows64 Wrote: Please Dont tell me that is all..... I really wish to know what happens....
I was hoping you would...
Thu Nov 13, 2008, 11:06 PM (This post was last modified: Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:15 PM by nightPhaser.)
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
>> Alright, that's it for Chapter I. Introduced the main cast and popped in a bizarre murder. Things can only get more f*cked up.
Quick roll call:
Ezrahin, mathematics professor at USTM. Age 26. Rumoured to be an illustrator as well.
Dimas aka Ryuumajin, Indonesian graphic designer and aspiring manga artist. Age 31. Has a sweeeeet motorbike.
Yaali, Indonesian student and part-time lecturer of computer science at USTM. Age 25. An expert of linguistics, writer of several books.
Bobbie aka Soul, restaurant owner. Age 28. Part-time reiki therapist.
Brian Hawkfeather aka Hawk, police officer and consultant detective. Age 29.
Dobb Tan aka Dobb, film student. Age 20. Son of a police chief.
Andy H.T. aka Andy, student of management at USTM. Age 20. Maintains a rumour mill website.
>> Alright, I'll work that in.
[ Proceed calmly. ]
Sat Nov 15, 2008, 06:20 AM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
Read it quickly. I have no idea what Persona is and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of inside-joke or self reference stuff by my lack of familiarity with the characters who are part of real life. I mean, I only know Ryuumajin's name because he posts at Cody Frost's ISO livejournal.
Either way, creepy murder (I figure it's the Raven. Dunno if it's supernatural yet), tons of players and oooooooh ROCKMAN! hehehe
Sun Nov 16, 2008, 05:32 PM (This post was last modified: Sun Nov 16, 2008 05:46 PM by nightPhaser.)
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
CHAPTER II : BLASPHEMOUS RUMOURS
"Let me hear you make decisions,
Without your television.
Let me hear you speaking,
Just for me."
-- Depeche Mode, 'Stripped'
The door to the staff offices swung open and a young, brown-furred female mouse walked into the cold air. She was about five feet in height, had black, shoulder-length hair and was dressed in a simple T-shirt and loose pants. She walked down the corridor lit by white fluorescents, glancing over the name plates attached to every door she passed. She stopped at one that said YAALI and PENSYARAH, and knocked on the door. Like most of the other offices, there was a small noticeboard outside the room pinned with various messages and two small boxes labelled IN and OUT.
"Come in, door is open." said a voice from inside. She carefully pushed open the door and greeted the male goat sitting behind a desk. "Please leave your shoes at the blue line." She paused, and looked down at the floor. The aforementioned blue line was hard to see against the blue carpet, but she saw it, and removed her simple, stringy shoes before making her way to a chair in front of the desk.
The room was the epitome of efficiency, and the arrangement of furniture in it would have made the best Feng Shui geomancers blush. Several filing cabinets lined the wall, with labels alphabetical, numeric and categorical. Several trays were on the desk, also labelled, and stationery were neatly separated into various partitions and boxes. The only ornamentation on the desk was a solved five-by-five Rubik's cube and a pair of solid steel balls. All surfaces in the room were without any dust.
The goat tapped out a few more words into his computer before tilting himself to one side and scrutinising his visitor. "And you are?"
"Mr. Yaali, I'm Ezra's student." she said, as she placed her white leather handbag onto another chair beside her. Yaali's brows furrowed in concentration for a while, after which the woman sighed softly. "Julia. I'm Julia Yazidi."
The goat raised a finger almost triumphantly. "Yes! Julia, yes!" His raised finger then curled, while he had a curious look on his face. "What can I do for you?"
"Mr. Yaali, I understand you have run the simulations for my traffic redirection project. Ezra has told me you have found an optimised configuration."
"Yes, I have." he said, with a smile. There was an awkward pause before she ventured: "Well, can I have it?"
"No." said Yaali, flatly. "I cannot give it to you, because it still runs with more than a three percent error margin."
Julia seemed to be puzzled at his response. "It's okay, Mr. Yaali, I don't need it to be so precise."
"Nonsense. It must run without any chance of catastrophic failure."
Julia realised she was starting to be frustrated at this exchange, but steeled herself to hold it in. "Mr. Yaali, it's perfectly alright. I just need the data so I can finish my thesis."
"I am sorry, Miss Julia, but I will not have my name attached to it without the data having met my approval."
Julia kept her eyes from Yaali, for fear of completely losing it to an academic university staff member. Ezra had warned her about the man, but assured her he was the best at what she intended. Her voice was grim and pressing as she said: "Mr. Yaali... please. The reason I need the data is because I need to finish my project before I have to present it to the committee, which is very soon."
"When?" asked Yaali. His conviction seemed to have been tempered with a measure of realisation. "Mid-October." He thought about it a bit, and said: "I will have it ready for you by Thursday. Fully formatted."
She nodded and picked up her handbag. "Thank you, sir. I will see you then." As she stood up, a thump reverberated through the air ducts above the office. The hum of rushing cold air also stopped.
"They've shut down the air-conditioning. How inconvenient."
In contrast, Ezra's office was a jungle of paper and plastic. Most of the chairs in his office became places to put various textbooks, journal articles and the occasional issue of Men's Health magazine. He'd never liked filing cabinets, and always kept the two in his office unlocked and with its shelves jutting out slightly, for easy opening. On his desk was an array of knick-knacks, ranging from a plastic figurine of a fire-and-magma superhero, to a small porcelain pot with dragons carved into it, to a velvet-lined stuffed skull. An unsolved three-by-three classic Rubik's Cube laid against a plush teddy bear wearing a graduation robe and mortarboard hat.
Deep inside the jungle, Ezra himself was sitting at his computer, looking intensely at conversations inside an on-line forum. Something seemed to have caught his eye, and there was a sudden joy flashing across his face.
He clicked a link given to him by another patron of the forum, which was run by Andy and specialised in casual group investigations of rumours and urban tales. As the webpage loaded into the browser, Ezra's face gradually went from joy to a deep, lacerated dismay.
There was a knock at his door. "Who is it?!" he called out. A brown cat with grey-speckled hair poked his face into the room. "Halo, Ezra."
The wolf calmed down slightly, composed himself, and smiled at Ryuumajin. "Hello, Ryuu-senpai."
"Senpai? I'm not that old." The feline walked towards Ezra's desk, being careful not to step on any boxes or knock down any paper towers. Before he got to it, he noticed that there weren't any chairs available for him to sit on, so he stood in place. "Are you free for lunch?" He raised a hand, which held a plastic bag full of what appeared to be salad, fried fritters and peanut sauce. "I got-a da gado-gado!"
Ezra was about to agree on an outing with the cat, when his eyes landed on the LCD screen, with a webpage that had just finished loading a rather large image. "No. I'm sorry, Ryuu, I can't."
"It's got prawns..." said the cat, as he waved the bag of food in front of him like a diamond pendant. This had an effect on Ezra he had not seen before nor expected.
"I said NO! What part of NO don't you understand!" The cat pulled himself back as the wolf snapped at him. "But I bought this for two people."
"GET OUT!" shouted the wolf, as Ryuumajin tried to find some words to say. Ezra looked around, reached for a thick book, and raised it over his head. "I said GET! OUT!" He had just started to move his arm to throw the volume when Ryuumajin left the room and closed the door behind him.
The feline walked away from the office, which was near the faculty's Student Affairs section full of secretaries and students. He felt the eyes of many fall upon him as he left.
He could've sworn he heard someone crying.
Yaali sat himself at a table near the Science Faculty's lecture halls. He clicked open a briefcase and brought out a pair of neatly-folded paper napkins, a paper plate, a sandwich bag filled with an assortment of greens and vegetables, a pair of plastic utensils, a tube of white dressing and a packet of individually-wrapped cheese cubes. He placed all of the items on the table, in a methodical and organised fashion.
He was a bit startled when a cat sat down in front of him. "Yaali."
"Dimas... I mean Ryuu." the goat replied, nodding slightly. He began to assemble his meal, putting the salad onto the plate, artfully squeezing out the dressing onto it, and setting down unwrapped cheese cubes at even distances around it. Ryuumajin found himself a bit entranced by it.
"What are you doing in USTM?" said the goat, as he lifted a plastic fork and considered how to approach the piece of organic artwork.
"Finished most of my share of pictures yesterday, sent them in today, and had the rest of the day free. I was going to have lunch with Ezra." he pointed to the bag of still-warm gado-gado next to him.
"But he wasn't cooperative, was he?" Ryuumajin nodded. "That happens. He has quite a temper to go with his jokes. Could have been very much worse for you, actually."
Ryuumajin gave a lazy nod, and looked around at where they were. The table was one of many in a sort of courtyard that stretched from the Physical Science Faculty's administration building to the turquoise-roofed Sultan Ismail mosque. A large stone was in the middle of the space, surrounded by bamboo plants. Many students were in the area, either on the way to classes or relaxing between them. "This isn't your place."
"True." said Yaali. "I had to leave. They were repairing the air-conditioning."
"But why here? Your place is at the hillside."
"I was also picking up some data from the mainframe. Do I have to tell you everything about my life?" Ryuumajin shook his head.
Yaali found a good way to start eating, and picked up an amount of the salad with the right ratio of dressing to vegetable. He stared carefully at the portion before putting it into his mouth.
Ryuumajin noticed a large envelope next to Yaali, filled with a stack of paper, and reached for it. "Don't touch that." he said, without removing his gaze from the next morsel of food.
"Answer sheets. We had to do a repeat final exam on account of a dozen students getting their hands on copies of the exam papers and marking schemes a week before the exam itself." he said, as he thoughtfully chewed on a cheese cube, apparently mushroom-flavoured. "Would not have caught them if they had not included known errors into their answers." He smiled. "How they got the papers in the first place, no one could figure out." The smile quickly went away.
"Maybe they did a wish on the TV." said the cat, as he opened up his own plastic bag and popped a peanut-sauce-covered piece of tofu into his mouth. "Like they say."
"What do they say?" Yaali said, mildly curious.
"There's a rumour I heard from the studio. If you look into a TV at midnight when it rains and say your name four times, a beautiful face will turn up and whisper your name back. Tell it your wish and it'll be granted."
The goat looked at Ryuumajin, shook his head, and resumed his careful measuring of vegetable servings. "It's true. Some people have tried it." Yaali's eyes narrowed. "What people?"
Ryuumajin thought for a bit. "Jamal. He was going to fail his third semester in a row, then suddenly he got a streak of four point averages every semester. He graduated first class."
"I am very certain you read all that in some minor college newsletter. Assuming it really is all that it seems, did he do the television... thing... you spoke of?"
"Uhm. Yeah, I think so."
Yaali looked unimpressed. "You don't even know." He made a tent with his fingers in front of him. "I have asked various parties about Jamal, and apparently his successful streak came up after the sacking of his Academic Advisor, who had been badmouthing him and other students to all his educators since his first year. He is merely an intelligent young man brought down by a hateful gossiper."
"Okay. Okay, maybe you're right. But what about Gayathri?"
"What about her?"
"She was in that bad accident last year, they said she would never wake up, and if she did, she would never be able to get out of the hospital bed. Last June she suddenly got well and applied for an Architecture course here."
Yaali was tight-lipped. "I will consider this case you speak of." He brought out a bottle of mineral water, unscrewed the cap, and took a gulp. "But you still haven't shown how her recovery had any direct connection to watching television at night."
Ryuumajin sighed, and remained quiet for a while before he said: "How about the Dark Angel?"
"No, the one who's been catching bad guys."
Yaali's eyes narrowed yet again. "You actually consider that costumed, anonymous and violent vigilante some kind of a superhero?"
"What? No!" Ryuumajin looked to his left, at nothing in particular. "I mean, why not? I bet someone wished for him to turn up and make everyone feel safer."
Yaali took a deep breath, and exhaled. "Sure. Anything you like." Ryuumajin found himself confused for a bit, and then felt a bit regretful for bringing up the rumour.
"Did you get the offer to be an artist at Miracle Works?" asked Yaali, welcoming a change of topic. "No, I didn't. Wang Long Tat's brother died last week before he could finalise the deal with Media Prima to sponsor the animation project. He had to take care of his very old parents, now that the eldest son is gone. I think the film's going to be held up for a long time." Ryuumajin poked at the gado-gado in the bag. "Rotten luck."
"Luck is just a word. What is, is." Yaali swallowed a rather spicy chilli-infused cheese cube. "Everything will be okay."
"I don't know, Yaali." The cat crossed his arms in front of him and slumped. "I left home to pursue my dreams. Now it's just... too hard."
Yaali looked at the sad feline, and despite the protestations coming from the back of his mind, he asked Ryuumajin if he could have some of the gado-gado.
Hawkfeather leaned back in his chair and stared at the corkboard attached to the wall next to him, with various photos and yellow memopads pinned onto it.
He recalled Maria Olivero, aged 27, a sales executive of a CCTV installation outfit in the commercial district of Taman Universiti. The feline woman was found tangled up in the high-voltage electrical pylons that stretched out like a Great Wall separating the University from all the townships. It caused the worst traffic jam ever on that side of district, due to all the drivers staring up at the grisly display. Later it was found that she had been seemingly cooked to death, and there were various burn marks on her body that were not a result of electrical interaction. From an address book found at the scene, the only known relative she had was her sister, who identified the body despite the face being little more than a mask of charcoal.
Sixteen days later, Mohamad Khairil Amani, aged 15, a student at First Taman Universiti Middle School, was found inside a wooden crate outside a garbage collection center in Taman Sri Pulai. The whole of a sixty-kilogram, five foot three young polecat had been squashed into a box almost half a meter across, up and wide, with the exception of his right arm, which stiffly stuck out of the box and made a V for Victory sign with the hand. He was also missing all of his teeth, and it was difficult for Hawkfeather to watch the parents identify the body.
Thirteen days later, a 42-year-old contributing writer for a national newspaper was found in a fountain with all his joints twisted up and his eyeballs collapsed inwards.
He turned himself in the chair, leaned himself back as far as he could, and watched the pale ceiling above him. Despite being part of the force for four years, he was still being treated like a foreigner, grudgingly tolerated by the other 'real' cops. He found himself far too often saddled with cases nobody wanted. Lately, these were cases where all the leads are dead ends, and the details are too horrible to discuss.
He leaned forward, and went down to pull out drawer from the side of his desk. As he took out a clipped collection of coroner's reports of the dead writer, he noticed a rosary and a small silver cross under it. The last time he went to church, two years ago, he was given a choice to make, and he took the one that lead him to this. Hawkfeather shook his head as he closed the drawer.
As Hawkfeather scrutinised the reports, Ahmady walked into the office, with a newspaper in his hands. He laughed as he sat down on his own desk.
"What is it?"
"It's The Raven. He stopped a bunch of rempit bikers by jumping right onto them, punching their lights out and throwing them off the road. Gila punya orang."
"Don't believe everything you read." Hawkfeather's brows furrowed. He looked as if the mere mention of the mysterious crimefighter's name left a sour taste on his tongue. "That person takes out the small fry, and we're left to clean up after the really messed-up scumbags." The panda looked at his colleague. "Are you okay, Hawk?"
The feathered detective didn't say anything, as he absently drew circles on the coroner's report with a talon. "Kawan, don't take work back home with you. If you know what I mean." said the bear. Hawkfeather raised his head and nodded in acknowledgement, knowing Ahmady meant well.
Ryuumajin's home was in Taman Sri Pulai. It was a modest single-storey terrace house he bought a year and a half before. Ezra helped vouch for him, since the previous owner seemed skeptical about selling it to a foreigner.
At the moment, he was hunched over a well-lit desk, with an HB pencil in hand and a piece of smooth paper with neatly-inked panel borders laid before him. He was sketching a tiger dressed in fisherman's clothes holding up a golden fish. Then he drew a speech bubble coming from the mouth of the fish. In his mind, the fish was begging for its life and offered the fisherman true love if he released it.
The feline paused, and leaned in for a closer look. He had a sudden look of disgust, and then dismay. He picked up a gray, clay-like material from a recess on the side of the table, and started rolling it over the paper. The sketch faded away with every pass.
He glanced upwards at a clock, which said 11:51pm. He quietly makes his way to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and poured himself a glass of milk. He drank it in small calm sips, as he listened to the rain rapping against the kitchen window.
He had finished washing the glass, and was walking back to the drawing room, when the dead television in the living room caught his eye. The thought of a particular rumour floated in his head. Part of him said, very convincingly, that it was a silly idea, and that he was too old to believe things like that. Another part of him simply said: 'What have you got to lose?'
Ryuumajin kneeled in front of TV, and turned it on. He lowered the volume and switched it to a dead channel, which he thought was also part of the ritual. Into the flat snowstorm he said his name (his real name) four times, and waited.
He waited a little bit more.
He began to be dismayed when nothing seemed to happen. He was standing up to leave when the screen noise gradually faded away. Instead of a beautiful face, there was a darkened room being shown on screen, slightly distorted by a fish-eye lens effect. A circle of solid white light entered the scene, moving inside the room like a hungry spotlight. It suddenly stopped over the sight of a black wolf being strangled by a dog-man in a white and black business suit.
[Coming up: A world behind the screen, and PER-SO-NA!]
>> If you can't tell already, everybody's got issues.
The title is from this Depeche Mode song
Ezra -- Chaotic-Neutral.
Hawk -- Lawful-Good.
Yaali -- Lawful-Neutral.
Ryuu -- Neutral-Good.
Soul -- True Neutral.
Dobb -- Chaotic-Good.
Andy -- True neutral.
(Sat Nov 15, 2008 06:20 AM)Cindermane Wrote: I have no idea what Persona is and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of inside-joke or self reference stuff...
>> Actually, I've tried to minimise meta-references this time. Even when there are any, I don't think they'd detract from the story. (Though, many of the locations I mentioned are in RL. e.g. The school, the 'Japanese mall' Jusco.)
In general, I have a death-grip on the amount of information I put out. Sometimes it makes me a very slow-burning storyteller. >_>
Ryuu's AA's resident mangaka. He really does have a motorbike.
[ Proceed calmly. ]
Fri Nov 21, 2008, 08:40 PM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo]
I can't even solve 1 x 1 x 1 rubic cube. :[
Quote:The title is from this Depeche Mode song
Ah so it was Depeche mode who are the original singer. In my library it's sung by Rammstein.
I'm not good with people
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