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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.)
Post: #1
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. Smile

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,
"Tarik?"
"No. Tea-o."

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."

"No."
"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.

"I'll pay."
"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."
"Alright, thanks."

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."
"Rockman?"
"Megaman." Ryuumajin said this with a slight cringe.
"Oh!"

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."
"You're welcome."

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.
"What, outside?"

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"
"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. ]
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Messages In This Thread
Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo] - nightPhaser - Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:35 AM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo] - Pyurio - Thu Nov 13, 2008, 09:52 AM
RE: Persona: Shattered Dreams [NaNoWriMo] - Pyurio - Fri Nov 21, 2008, 08:40 PM

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