Martin: Untitled Memories

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Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Martin: Untitled Memories

Post by Pasonia » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:10 am

While Martin isn't quite the most popular character in Lamentable Nights, given his general caustic attitude towards people, he is knowledgeable with the town.

At least, from a simple person's perspective, he is a person you could truly call a local.

== Birth ==

He was born in a middle-class family, to Dent Chang, a senior clerk at a printing company, and Seline Ngan, a textile factory worker who later became a full-time housewife. The romance between Dent and Seline could be fairly described as a marriage since childhood, them having known each other for close to twenty years before tying the knot some thirty-five years ago, when they were both twenty-somethings.

== The Eight Character Conundrum ==

As Chinese in a non-Chinese environment, being the insecure people they were, they went to the nearest Chinatown to have Martin's Eight Characters foretold by a fortune-teller, reputed to be one of the best in the nation. Martin remembers his father telling him that that fortune-teller, upon seeing the couple and the baby Martin, suddenly went into a spike of panic and chased them out of his consultation office; every Chinatown that the couple went to afterwards, the local fortune-tellers did almost the same thing without hesitation.

This happened during a time that the country's economy was in the doldrums and no city was spared in its effects, including Pebbleton, so it came as a surprise that fortune-tellers, hard as it is already that work would come their way, would chase them off.

Still, Chang Sr. would not let a little Eight Character problem get in the way, so they raised their child the traditional strict-father way without mentioning this incident until years later.

== The Beginning ==

When Martin began elementary school, two things happened. The regional subway network was established, allowing people access to the city center in half the time needed as they would have using the overland bus route. It was also that day that a meteor shower was first recorded in Pebbleton, precluded by Martin sitting all evening at the window sill. When the meteor rain came as expected, Martin quickly wished that he would one day do his Dad proud and excel at something.

But little Martin had no idea on what to excel on. Having very little interest in music, and the fact that Martin's father had been stuck with the same salary amidst an inflation crisis - the last of the significant economic problems in Pebbleton as far as Martin remembered - meant that piano, guitar or any musical instrument was out of the question. His father, being protective of Martin, had also forbidden him from playing sports, worried that any childhood injury might severely impact Martin's future.

So Martin was left with mind sports to play, and there was very little on offer. In the end, Martin decided he'd pick the simplest sport to play, and do his best at it. He found English Chess (now International Chess) too difficult, as was the complex rules of Chinese Chess and Shogi. In the end, at age eight, his Uncle Philip, a rich but earthly man, visited Martin during Chinese New Year, asking Martin what he wanted as he did not want to give anything to Martin that isn't useful to a child, money being one of many "useless" things.

"A simple to play board game that people can see me being good at!"

Having played Go in his youth, Philip Chang decided that it was the next best thing Martin could be schooled at, him not thinking much of what the significance of the act was. So, one month later, Dent was given a rather thick delivery package that contained a traditional Goban (Go board), lots and lots of black-and-white pieces in a brilliant shimmer of ivory, and five large books related to the game, in order of difficulty from pure beginner to semi-pro.

Dent, having played Go with Philip as a past-time, was fairly confident that children being children, Martin would probably lose interest after a few months. However, what came to Dent was a series of shocks that would precipitate the beginning of Martin's interest.

On the first day, Dent beat Martin with relative ease, having taken out three large territories that Martin had forgotten to protect with eye-building. On the second day, Dent still beat Martin, but only after taking out a single large group that was crucial to victory. From then on, however, Dent, having taken Martin lightly, was beaten in a close loss of just two stones.

One week after the goban arrived at the Chang residence, then further south of the town center, Martin was beating Dent by increasingly larger margins as Dent struggled to keep up with Martin. Knowing how deep Go actually is and astounded by his son's pace of improvement, Dent excitedly phones Philip, who by this time was busy at work again and could not spare time for Martin. Philip sent his home-schooled son, Jared, to the Chang residence during the summer break.

== Martin's determination seizes attention ==

The children agreed to play five games, once per day, as per Philip's request to keep records of the children's game. On the first day, Jared soundly beat a very surprised Martin by a large margin, and it was then that Philip revealed that Jared had, in fact, been home-schooled only because he had wanted Jared to eventually play in Japan as a full-time professional, and thus focusing his childhood on Go. This was a shock to Dent, wondering why Philip had sent such a strong child to play poor little Martin, but Martin's words later stunned the father with such shock.

"Jared's so good at Go! I wish I can quickly become as strong as he is!"

Perhaps, as a testament to Martin's precociousness, Jared and Martin's second game soon became a difficult test of survival as Martin held Jared until a small error in one of the most dangerous fights tipped the scales away from Martin. The third and fourth games shook young Jared, but nevertheless, small errors cost Martin and Jared was able to seize these gilt-edged opportunities to secure victories.

On the final day, Dent and Philip had a bet that the children didn't know - if Martin was able to beat Jared, Philip would see him through to junior high. Dent took the bet, since there were no strings attached, and, because neither he nor Philip were accurate judges anymore of their children's ability, had automatically assumed that Philip was just going through a rhetoric knowing Jared would surely win.

And so Martin and Jared began playing, not knowing the weight of the bet behind their last game. Martin and Jared were still a ways from each other, so Jared had relaxed his attention a little, and began to play experimental moves he never usually considered in a game, since Martin was so much fun to play with and is so unpredictable. Martin, however, didn't miss this change in play style, having noticed that Jared wasn't playing his usual cautious style, although at that time he didn't actually knew what the word "cautious" meant - he just knew.

While Jared happily sets his gameplan in motion and prepares to obliterate Martin's formations around the board, a surprise play in the tengen which neither of the seniors noticed - put Jared into a state of panic, realising later than Martin that Martin had just played a crippling move that would force him to waste at least three moves while he tried to surreptitiously focus Martin's lax attention elsewhere. After recovering just one move, Martin realised that Jared had suddenly switched his style of play into one even more cautious than what he had been doing for four days. He then played moves, not knowing where Jared was protecting, but in about ten moves he finally figured out what. Martin then broke through the weak spots, effectively ending the game as the game balance tilted towards Martin for the first and only time in five days.

"...How long did you say you learnt Go, again?"
"Four months!"

Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

Re: Martin: Untitled Memories

Post by Pasonia » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:04 am

== Where flowers blossom, the least blessed be discarded into the wind ==

It was smooth sailing for Chang Sr. for several years, as his brother "graciously" accepted his son Jared's loss to Martin, the first time anyone in his son's age range has ever beaten the prodigy. The lessened burden means Chang Sr. now had more money to spend on his son's future, which he quickly asserted to be Go.

And indeed, for several years, Martin and Jared were the nation's best under-twelve players, and on one occasion had gone to Japan for an international tournament on behalf of the country.

It was in Tokyo's famed Nihon Ki'in (Japan National Go Association Club) that both children shone, but it was a nigh short trip for Martin; Jared stayed on and registered as an insei upon invitation of the directors of the Ki'in, and Martin was given an offer that would stay valid until he was seventeen.

That same year, however, tragedy struck Martin's family. Mrs Seline Chang had taken ill to a severe bout of flu, and was hospitalised for months. The rapidly rising costs of the hospital stay daunted the family; Dent went to Philip's house to obtain help, which he didn't, because Philip Chang moved house without warning and the house was then already occupied by another family who didn't know where his brother moved to.

From that moment forward, Martin was forced to make ends meet with his father, working as a newspaper delivery boy in the morning. It was this routine that allowed Martin to become familiar with the nook and crannies of Pebbleton, but the job was never one he relished. For years, it would seem that that would be Martin's calling, having to clear up the hospital's bills constantly.

During his last year of junior high school, Martin received an unfamiliar letter demanding school fees. Realising that the burden of the school fees were once born by his Uncle Philip, Martin sought the same man's help, without the knowledge of Dent. Martin did not find Philip at the old address he once knew (he was not told by Dent that years ago he had already done the same), but this time the new house owner delivered a letter to the confused child.

The letter would lead him all the way back to Pebbleton, where Materion Towers was still under construction. There, he had a private chat with his Uncle Philip, who revealed at last that he could not forgive both Martin and himself for scarring Jared with one single loss that fateful day.

"Nephew, I hope you understand that the single loss you dealt to my son was the harshest he has ever received. Therefore, I am treating your family in kind. I hope you understand what Uncle is saying."

Naturally, Martin did not. He asked for further clarification, only to be met with the coldest of stares he has ever received in his entire life, which terrifies him to this day. What he did understand was that he had a hand in causing the problems in the family, owing to what he once thought was selfish behavior.

Anguished in that thought, Martin gave up Go, and concentrated on helping the family, taking up an additional job with the time freed up from not playing Go. Martin did not know that this move would further anguish Dent, who only wanted to see his only son succeed at one thing in life.

Philip was to regret his coldness to his dearest brother's family three years later.

Dent took out all the savings he had, but Martin was not to know what this was for, only that it wasn't meant for treating Mrs Chang. Naturally, the well-known money-grubbing hospital Mrs Chang was in, having no compassion whatsoever despite the public good it was supposed to serve, booted Mrs Chang out of the hospital despite her comatose condition, and days later Mrs Seline Chang passed away, leaving behind a grief-stricken Dent and Martin.

As a result of the grief, Martin was unable to take his exit exams in 100% condition, and failed the cut for the private school, though his results were considered "stellar" for the Public High.

While Martin was in Senior High during his Sophomore year, having funded himself through with a scholarship for the Public School and no longer saddled with the burden of funding (at least sans his persistent dream to go to Tokyo once again), Dent arranged for himself to be involved in a fatal accident during the summer, having lost any hope of a happy dream ever after, and hoping that his scheme at using insurance to pave the way for Martin's dreams will work, even if his were extinguished cruelly.

For all these to work, he was at painstaking hard work in ensuring he flies into an argument whenever Martin mentions about going to Japan. Notably, that he would cite an "old war document written by his father that documented war atrocities committed to the Chang family during WW2" as his only reason to veto Martin on everything Japan-related. He was hoping to induce a fervor in Martin to want to go to Japan as much as possible, then depart the world with his future secured in an insurance scam.

But what he was not to know was that Martin was to cross that same intersection that was meant for his suicide. Panicked, he rushed into the intersection, throwing a shocked Martin off the road as the car hit him on cue, permanently scarring Martin with the horror of watching his dad bleed out, but not before he remembered the vehicle plate number of the car that critically injured his father. Dent Chang passed away that same evening, leaving Martin alone without family and with only a licence plate left to investigate.

The irony of it all was that, had Martin not remembered to look at the licence plate, he would have had an insurance payout that would see him through his dreams of playing Go in Japan, and no one would have suspected a thing. The licence plate was traced back to a notorious insurance payout scam-artist, the same one who introduced Martin's father to an early death, and as a result Dent Chang's involvement came to light. The insurance company took that badly, having already been hit several times by the same scam-artists and wishing for no more compromise to their beleaguered, badly-managed finances, and as a result Martin was left to live with himself and no more money other than whatever Dent had left behind in his will, which amounted to no more than five thousand dollars.

Since news broke of Dent Chang's involvement in the insurance scam, Philip Chang had also gone missing, with his wife saying that the day after Dent's obituary was splashed on the papers, he had abruptly quit his high-flying job as a general manager to "repent his sins".
To this day, nobody knows where Philip Chang had gone to, though there was heavy gossiping in the extended family that he may have gone to become a Buddhist monk somewhere in the country.

Nevertheless, the loss of both parents took a toll on Martin's mental health. Martin had kept cursing and swearing at himself for, out of all things, loving the one thing he was ever good at.

"If it weren't for Go," he would mumble, prompting his erratic behavior to come.

Two months later, he was thrown out of an inter-school tournament because he flipped a table at an opponent before the game had started, and threatened the opponent into a punch-out to which he lost. However, the opponent later admitted that he would have been the one thrown out of the tournament because he had uttered a Chinese curse word directed at the target's parents, and he would not have known that Martin's overwhelming grief for his parents was about to become the biggest obstacle in his life.

As the Chinese saying goes, "Grief pours from the center of the heart".

It could not have been more apt and debilitating to describe Martin for twenty-four months.

However, this also shook up the rest of the extended family that Martin came from.

And as the story goes, family is everything...
...and Martin was about to find out why, through his sorrows.
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