I got a copy of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles for my birthday two months ago! I was excited to get this high-definition version for the PS3; my Gamecube with the original one doesn’t work anymore. And since I use the game’s music to inspire my GLORIOUS writings I thought it would be a good idea to play through again for even MORE inspiration!
Sure, this may LOOK like a schoolyard fight involving a young Mario, Sephiroth, and Sailor Moon, but it’s really quite sophisticated. It’s about the evils of discrimination and the, uh, duality of, like, something really important. Look, I’ll post more pictures when I get to the cool-looking characters, okay!?
8 – Killer
Mackaba jogged across the glass, leaving wet footprints behind with his bare feet. The neon lights of Clance’s casino reflected images of women, games, and promises of money onto the surface of the plain behind him.
“Alright, not going near that thing,” he muttered, giving the Nameless a sideways glance on his right. The empty face of the woman’s statue gave a blank stare back. He shivered and kept his eyes ahead of him; the round arena was getting nearer. There was a large wooden gate lit by the sun, and the entire structure was ringed with circular openings. Vines bearing bright flowers hung out from these windows, stretching toward the light. Mackaba squinted at the vines: there were ripe melons dangling from them.
“Finally some food,” Mackaba gasped. He took a few more steps before skidding to a halt. “Wait.” He looked back at the neon signs, then turned to the arena ahead of him again. “I know a lure when I see one. Nice try.” He took a sharp turn left, flinching upon seeing the blue dome of gas.
“Where’d that come from?” he asked. With a sniff he adjusted his thong. “Looks like someone’s trying to hide something. Let’s take a look.”
He marched off toward it. From one of the windows of the arena, a woman watched him go. She had a melon slice in her hand and she lifted her veil to take a bite. When she had chewed and swallowed she set the rest down and took the end of her chain from where it hung at her hip.
“Lady Shirka,” she said into it.
“What, Calm?” came the reply. “Did you make it to the ship? I heard an explosion.”
Calm kicked her legs. “I made it there and Elder is gone,” she said, speaking into one of the links on the chain.
Shirka chuckled. “And what was that noise?”
“Other people came from your world,” Calm told her. “Dark, Darrow, Jelk, and Tenny. They want to save Mean.”
“I’ll be,” Shirka said. “What happened to them?”
“They’re loose on Arsiling,” Calm hummed. She smiled and swayed. “They were running to my place. There’s another one, but he’s alone. He came from Clance’s. He’s in his underwear.”
“He got away too?” Shirka laughed. “Where’s he headed?”
“Pla-do-mir,” Calm sang.
“No!” Shirka said. “Make sure he stays away. Chase him to one of the others.”
Calm nodded. “Yep,” she affirmed. She dropped the chain and sprung down to the ground: her feet smacking against the glass as she landed. She took one more bite of melon, discarded the rest, and pushed against the glass with one foot. She glided across the plain with Mackaba in her sights; sliding on one foot, drawing the other in, and pushing away with her toes. Skating along, she ducked her head as she picked up speed. Her veil fluttered at her face.
“Underwear!” she called out. Mackaba checked behind him, jumped, and ran.
“Just great,” he muttered. “More hooligans.” His steps slapped against the glass as he made for the dome of blue smoke. A pulsing rhythm caught up to him; Calm was skating at his side.
“Ho!” she exclaimed and darted ahead. With a whirl she spun backwards, landed on her feet, and continued her slide. With ghostly eyes she watched him run. Mackaba glared at her. Calm angled her feet and drifted sideways. Kicking off, she looped behind him again.
“She’s a little scallop,” Mackaba panted. The edge of the dome was near. He tilted his head, listening as the pulsing grew fainter and louder again. He felt something snap on his wrist: a round circle had fasted there, and it was linked to a long chain. Calm held the other end of it, and she zoomed ahead again, laughing.
“Hey! You get back here!” Mackaba cried. He trotted to a halt and braced his arm. Calm kept skating and the chain wobbled taut. Mackaba’s feet skidded and his body tipped forward; he staggered, struck his knee, and bounded up to sprint after her.
“Run!” Calm said, towing Mackaba along. She steered him away from the dome, toward Beebee’s castle.
Mackaba wheezed with his arm held before him and his feet pounding against the floor. Sweat began trickling into his eyes, causing the swirl of clouds beneath him to blur. “Aha,” he hummed.
Ahead of him Calm’s legs flexed as she took long, powerful strokes. The chain kept one arm pulled back at her side. With a sudden jerk it went slack.
“Did it come loose?” Calm asked herself. She twisted her head around to see Mackaba still attached to the chain: with blobs of odd water encasing his feet. He slid along behind her with stiff legs and a smile on his face.
“Like jet skiing back home!” he called out, wiping sweat from his eyes.
Calm growled and spun forward again. A diamond-shaped grid snapped into focus as she smacked into a wall of liquid.
“Bleck!” she coughed, sinking into the cube of odd water. She thrashed and shook her head, backing out of it and falling on her rump.
Mackaba passed her, gliding around the wall he had made. With a small burst of spray the chain link came loose from his wrist.
“Thanks for the tricks,” he said, gesturing at the wall. The crossed lines unraveled and emptied the water upon the sputtering Calm. Mackaba pushed his toes through the makeshift water skates on his feet, pressing on to the open gates of the castle.
Pladomir pushed himself up. His orange brows had dimmed. “You dragged us into Whittler’s territory!” he spat. Mean was helping the slave in the containment suit up.
“Hey, do you want to escape with me?” she asked. The woman’s bright face peered out at her through the smoke. She had thin, glowing lines radiating out from each eye in a “Y” pattern.
The woman took a careful look over at Pladomir. The raft was hovering above his head upside down. He leapt up at it in a frantic attempt to pull it back down.
“I can’t breathe the air here; I need this suit,” she told her. “There’s nowhere you can escape to, anyway. Just choose one of them and stay there.”
“What are you speaking to her for?” Pladomir shouted. He found a strap that was attached to the side of the boat and took hold; the vessel drifted back down. “Hurry and get back over here! We must make haste!”
“It isn’t that bad,” the woman told Mean. “I deserve to be here anyway.” She rubbed at her knee through the suit, got up, and went to assist in righting the boat.
“Hold on; my radio,” Pladomir said, leaving her to finish. He walked over to where it had fallen and knelt down to pick the device up. Four triangles curled up from the sheet of tin and encased it with a snap.
“Retreat! Retreat!” Pladomir cried. He raced for the raft. The slave was already climbing in. The long sheets of metal rose up from where they had lay flat. They were cut into tall, jagged shapes and they were moving to surround everyone present. Pladomir reached the boat and his slave helped him in. He took to the wheel, revved the engine, and pointed the bow at the dome of blue gasses. His boat did not move. The sharp curls of tin rose higher around them.
“What in blazes!?” Pladomir exclaimed. He pushed on a throttle, the boat’s engine hummed, yet it did little more than bob and hover in place.
“Puttering off already?” Mean asked. “Just going to leave me here?” She had her finger pointed at the boat. Pladomir’s brows flared bright orange as he glared at her. Mean bounced up from the ground and flew over to them.
“There’s this rule I just made up that says you both stay here with me,” she expressed in an airy tone.
“Cease this nonsense,” Pladomir said. “Whittler will kill you.”
Mean waved her hand and the tin sheets banged back into place, covering the glass again.
“We beat her before,” she stated. “And I’ll let you go after you tell me how to get back to my world.”
Pladomir eased on the throttle. He sniffed, staring off at the wall of the blue dome.
“Alright–get out of here,” Mean muttered. Pladomir spurred the boat into motion and it floated back over the way it had came. The woman watched Mean as they went, the “Y” pattern around her eyes bright. Pladomir’s stole a glance back at Mean, his teal face set in a complacent smirk.
“Yeah I’m glad you’re gone too,” Mean shot back.
She yelped as a sharp pain pricked her thigh; more triangular tabs had curled up at her legs. They were thin and sharp, positioned at the back and front of her knees and at the sides of each ankle. A wobbling of thin metal sounded at her side. It was the blade of a crooked saw, and a bald, aging woman in a filthy smock was leaning upon it. Her spotted face was creased with wrinkles; a fat, vertical scar zigzagged down her neck.
“You said you met me before?” she hissed.
“Oh,” Mean uttered. “Uh, well, I–“
“Stay very still,” the woman told her. “Pladomir could still be watching.” She took a step over and the saw wobbled beneath the weight of her arm. “Just be still. And act as if you’re about to get murdered.”
“I’m not acting!” Mean croaked out. The woman approached. She lifted the saw up.
“Such a pity,” Pladomir expressed as he lowered the spy glass from his eye. “It would have been useful to have a worker that didn’t need a suit.” He steered the ship into the fog. The woman lowered her head.
“You were really acting scared,” the scarred woman told Mean. She lowered the saw and let it clang against the tin floor.
“I really was!” Mean replied. The tin teeth at her legs bent backwards, freeing her.
The woman scoffed. The tin plates on the ground rose up in various places, coming together to form two walls and a roof. “You could have knocked my saw away.” She gestured at a roll of tin that had curled next to Mean. “Sit down; we have a lot to talk about.”
“I guess we do,” Mean said. She wiped a sweaty strand of hair back. The woman leaned the saw against one of the makeshift walls and plopped onto her own tin roll.
Mean saw that the woman wore sandals; her feet were twisted and callused. Moving on to her hands she saw that they were gnarled and scarred too.
“Afraid you’ll look like this someday?” the woman asked.
“No, I was just”–she looked at her own hands–“I have scars.” She opened her fingers, showing off the minuscule, smooth spot on the right side of her palm.
The woman chuckled. “Let’s start with names. You are?”
“My name is Mean. And you?”
“They call me Whittler around here. You really don’t know my real name, though? Where did you meet me?”
Mean swallowed. “Well, I didn’t meet you, really. It was a clay statue that attacked us at King’s Fair. On another world.”
“Whose was it?” Whittler asked. “You can’t be from Pladomir’s.” Mean gave an absent jab behind her.
“Ah, Shirka, I think?” Mean said. “I know you guys travel to the other planets in weird bodies. Templetine said ‘Whittler’ I think so I assume it must have been you.”
“Temple?” Whittler repeated. “When was this? About five years ago?”
“No,” Mean started, then caught herself. “Oh, wait, yeah it was. Sorry, I went back in time so it didn’t seem like that long ago.”
Whittler scoffed. “Are you trying to pull one over on me?” she asked. “Shrine Haas was punished for taking a ship to Shirka’s world a while back. I heard he used a different name there. What did he look like?”
“He was all thin at first and then he got bigger.” She put her hands to her head and extended her fingers. “He grew hair too.”
Whittler whistled through her teeth. “You really aren’t kidding. Yeah, that’s what happened. But I didn’t go with him; I’m not allowed on any of the worlds–I can’t even have one of those avatars they use.” She frowned. “I don’t remember going with him, at least.” She banged on the tin. “Or someone took my memory!”
Mean stood up. “Someone was doing that, too! People were forgetting things! No–the thoughts were getting put into other people’s heads!”
Whittler pounded the tin roll again. “Cougo! He must have been in on it! He made the ship that attacked your planet; he probably gave the prototype to Shrine Haas in the first place!”
“Whoa, hold on–attacked? With a ship?” Mean asked. Whittler got up.
“Cougo probably removed any memories of that to make your trip here easier. Easier for him, anyway. But if he’s broken the rules of Arsiling then we need to let Elder Sain know. My friend Beebee can help us; come on.” She set a wrinkled hand on Mean’s shoulder. It drooped.
“Uh oh,” she said. “I thought she was you. I went there right after escaping.”
“You did?” Whittler asked. “Is she alright?”
“Well I saw the sculptures and then there were knives in her drawers!” Mean explained. “Then I hit her with a tray of cinnamon rolls and flew away.”
Whittler cackled. “Don’t worry about her; she’s not like the others. She always finds a way to bounce back.”
On the second floor of the castle Beebee gathered the cold cinnamon rolls and tray from the floor.
“This is turning into a really bad day,” she groused. Sniffling, she placed the tray back on the small table and picked up a pack of ice. She held it to a purple bruise on her chin. With a start she spun toward the door. “Oh no–oh no! Is that her coming back!?”
Beebee crept to the stone doorframe. Footsteps sounded in the foyer below. She pressed her hands on the wall and leaned around to peek out with one eye. Past the stair bannister, near the open gate, stood Mackaba. His hair was hanging in wavy strands over his forehead and ears; his body was slick with sweat. With a sigh he fell to his knees, panting.
“Golly,” Beebee whispered. She spun back to face the room, placing her hand on her chest. “Alright, this is better. Much better.”
She danced in place for a moment, then went to one of the mannequins: sweeping one of the dresses from it.
QUICK FIRST DRAFT NOTES:
“Timing” – You may have noticed that Dark and his group were running toward a temple building in the last chapter––and they still haven’t gotten there! I didn’t put it in because seemed wrong to mess up the flow of things in THIS chapter just to include their part of the story. I might have screwed up the timing of things, but it’s okay. First draft. Maybe Darrow just had to stop to go to the bathroom.
“Mackaba and Calm” – I wanted a chase scene with these guys, and I was going to have Mackaba swim around in a tunnel of odd water to escape. But hey! If Calm can skate, why can’t he? I love it when characters refine their abilities as they go; as opposed to in between chapters when no one is looking. Although I did do that with Mean in the first book, didn’t I? Ha,ha,ha.
I didn’t explain how Calm skates with her bare feet, though. You’ll have to wait while I think that one up. “She has adaptive molecules that fold to either increase or decrease the state of friction on her epidermal surfaces!” Yeah, I’ll just work that line in somewhere.
“Mean and Whittler” – Well, this part was a shock for me: I had this huge chase with Mean, Pladomir, and Whittler all planned out. There’s even music for it in my inspirational playlist. But then–Zounds!–I realized that it was completely pointless. Sure, it would have been awesome to watch Mean and Pladomir scramble away from tidal waves of knives for six pages. But why? Anyone that read the previous book already knows what Whittler can do. In the name of concise storytelling I must give this portion the axe before I even begin. Alas!
That’s also why Whittler’s appearance is so abrupt; I had to skip ahead further than I planned. Where did an old lady like that pop out of anyway? With a giant saw!? And that conversation is so silly. Man, I want to re-write all that immediately but–! The first draft must continue! And the new Hearthstone cards come out tomorrow morning so I need to sleep, ha,ha,ha.