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A Dance with Football: An Adabian Story (CLOSED)

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Adab
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A Dance with Football: An Adabian Story (CLOSED)

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:20 am

OOC: Do not post here unless you are the OP, a mod, or have been asked to do so by the OP

A Dance with Football
Snapshots of the lives of the people involved in Adabian football and those associated with them


If you’re reading this, welcome to A Dance with Football, a series which is centered on people who – as players or staff – are part of the Adab national football team as well as those who know them well. I wrote the first twelve chapters in 2018, during my first serious run in NS Sports, before taking a break from NationStates the next year – which I originally thought would be a permanent retirement – to prepare for university and only coming back in 2021, hence the thirteen-year break between chapters 12 and 13.

I had not originally planned to compile all the chapters, spread across the multiple tournaments I had RPed in, into a single thread. What made me decide to do this is that, as of this writing, I’m already RPing for the Independents Association Championship 13 and I’ve also signed up for the World Cup, the U18 World Cup, the U21 World Cup, and the Olympics, and thus for the first time I faced the possibility of my storyline continuing across multiple events at the same time. Another reason is that I may sometimes decide to write an additional chapter even after I’ve been eliminated from the corresponding event to advance or wrap up a particular plot point, and I do not want to further clog up the roleplay thread when nothing that I write will help me advance to the next round.

My creating this thread is intended to allow readers (if there are any) to follow the storyline without having to shift between different threads, should they want to do so. I should note that I do not consider myself a writer; I just happen to write sometimes (I’m a law student, in this field you kinda have to be able to write). This is just something that I do for fun (and to gain RP bonus lol).

All chapters will be posted both here and on their respective event threads, aside from the aforementioned additional chapters which will only be posted here.

The full list of chapters is available here and will continue to be updated there. The links there will take you to their respective event threads and I intend for them to remain so. I highly encourage you, if you have the time, to read all the other RPs there. NS Sports is filled with many excellent RPers and I’m sure they would appreciate it if you would just take your time to read all the things that they’ve written.

A list of major/prominent characters in this storyline can be found here by scrolling down to the “Football” section.

Finally, in creating this series and this thread, there are too many people for me to thank and I cannot possibly mention them all in this thread, but I am particularly indebted to:
  • My parents for encouraging my love of reading and writing.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United for igniting my love of football.
  • The NationStates community in general for regularly producing high-quality prose.
  • And finally to two NSers in particular, Quebec and Shingoryeo and Tumbra, who have been a source of inspiration to me in compiling my chapters in a single thread. Their own series – The Wanderer’s Guide to Somewhere and defender meets midfielder, respectively – are absolutely worth a read, so go read them.

If you have any questions, feel free to TG me or contact me on Discord if you’re on the same server as me. I’ll try to reply as soon as possible.
Last edited by Adab on Thu Jul 22, 2021 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:21 am

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Present day
Free Republics

The birds flew across the morning sky and above the head of Saad Kaykali, who had risen at an unusually early time in the morning. The campground was, quite simply, a beauty - a gift from Mother Nature amid the encroaching influence of the cities. Saad, just recently installed as manager of the Adab national football team, had insisted that the team stay in that campground instead of one of the posh hotels in the city for several reasons. First, he did not want to hear reports of players sneaking out to the bars and discotheques before a big match, getting themselves drunk beyond belief in the process. Second, he intended to give players some time to rest and prepare for the challenge ahead in peace, and this could be better done away from the city. It had been proven many times that the sounds of the environment - be it the birds, or the wind, or whatever was there - could be relaxing for those who heard it and might provide health benefits and alleviate stress, a common plague of professional footballers. Finally, he just wanted to get away from it all, get away from the hustle and bustle, find a secluded place where he and his staff could devise tactics and prepare for all possibilities that they might face on the road ahead, and contemplate the unexpected twists that he had occurred in his life and the turns that he had taken to get to this place.

Seven years ago

He was the greatest star of his time, a bright spark in a sport that was falling apart around him, the hero that the country needed. But that was another time. Looking back on it now was akin to looking back across the abyss for something that just seemed too good to have actually existed. But that thing used to exist: that time when he was the greatest athlete of his generation.

Saad Kaykali played for Baghdad City as a midfielder from 1990 to 2008, having been signed by the club at the age of only sixteen. There were accusations of nepotism at the time; after all, his uncle Albar Kaykali was a high-ranking official at the Football Association, and it was widely suspected that he had pulled some strings in order to get Saad signed by the club. Football, though still the most popular sport in Adab at the time, was fast declining in popularity amid accusations of violence (particularly hooliganism) and corruption at every level. All doubts, however, quickly dissipated as young Saad established himself as a genuine threat on the field. Endowed with speed and reflexes that - even at the national level - had to be seen to be believed, along with leadership abilities, Saad took Baghdad City to consecutive Adabian Premier League titles from the 1993-1994 to the 1997-1998 seasons, and again from the 2001-2002 to the 2004-2005 seasons; he was installed as captain in 2001.

Saad's peak coincided with the tenure of his uncle Albar as President of the Football Association from 1997 to 2002. Albar quickly and successfully took steps to quash the corruption and violence that had so dominated Adabian football in the last few decades. Saad's humble personality - he consistently denied that he was the star of the team, claiming that "everyone in the team is the star" - only increased his popularity, which peaked with his fairytale marriage to Princess Maria Ashurbanipal, great-granddaughter of Emperor Tizqar III, in 1998 (they had one daughter, Aida). The Adab Times gleefully splashed the news across its front page: "PRINCESS MARRIES STAR FOOTBALLER". For a while, it seemed as if the Kaykalis had been sent right out of heaven to save Adabian football.

It is true that all good things must come to an end, but sometimes they simply crashed and burned. Albar Kaykali died of a heart attack in 2002, and without his guiding hand much of the progress that had been made were undone. Corruption continued on at endemic levels, and the Premier League, after several years of respite, was once again plagued by rumors of match fixing. Hooliganism, although not as severe as in the Sixties, still occurred from time to time. Finally, as pitiful as the state of Adabian football was, no one expected Emperor Tizqar III - in a rare occurrence of the monarch intervening in sports - to actually freeze the Football Association and the entire football league system in 2008. The Al-Habshi Tribunal, launched at the Emperor's behest, resulted in the arrest of no less than three hundred figures, accused of partaking in the various crimes that besmirched Adabian football, and the execution of about seventy of them.

Once acclaimed as the country's greatest athlete alive, Saad Kaykali's world came crashing down around him overnight. Seventy-five people associated with Baghdad City - players, staff, even two janitors - were taken into custody and twenty of them put in trial, but on top of the prosecutors' list was no other than Saad, captain of the team during the time when it was accused of match fixing. Saad was enraged as he denied the accusations - pointing out that he had refused bribes on more than one occasion - and devastated when his teammates admitted it; Saad was too honest and they respected him too much, so they bypassed him.

Perhaps Saad should have known that his teammates and opponents were playing him for a fool; all those times when the opponents' defense or his seemed easier to penetrate than usual, when there was something usual in the direction his teammates moved, when something seemed to go wrong with the tactics. Perhaps. How come, Saad wondered? They had won so many titles, they were the greatest, they had no reason to fix. Then he realized they could have won much more had they not thrown away the matches. That, or some of the matches and titles they had won had been fixed in their favor. Saad the wonderkid, Saad the star footballer, it was all a myth, he convinced himself; the road had been made easy for him, and he was not even aware of it.

And now here he was, having served two months out of a seven-year sentence at the Adab City Prison. He had sued for divorce from Maria for her own sake. Once a princess married to a star footballer, she was now a princess married to a prisoner. She would be granted full custody of Aida (who was now living with Maria's sister). Still, Saad knew he had much to thank his lawyers for; three of his teammates had been electrocuted at the same prison - Good riddance, Saad thought - and manager Hamid al-Karawiji was scheduled to face the firing squad at the gates of Imperial Palace a week from now, his execution open to the public in order to make an example out of him.

Saad had filed for divorce several months ago, before he went to prison but after he (at his own initiative) separated from Maria, but neither he nor his lawyers had received a reply, and today he knew why. Maria's sister visited him along with Aida - her first meeting with her father since he began his sentence - and delivered the news; Maria was suffering from leukemia, which had been diagnosed shortly after the separation and which she had kept secret from Saad, and she did not have much time left.

The next day he was allowed out of prison to visit his wife at the nearby hospital. In her last words, she rejected Saad's request for a divorce ("I love you, Saad, and I know you didn't do anything wrong") and urged Saad and her sister to take care of Maria. Saad was with her when she passed. He attended her funeral under police escort, immediately returning to prison after the burial.

Saad served two years of his sentence, before his lawyers - equipped with mounting evidence that he did not know anything regarding his teammates' conduct - appealed to the Emperor. Saad was granted a pardon and his property restored to him; his reputation having been restored during his time in prison, he was greeted by a legion of fans as he stepped out of the prison. He regained custody of Aida from Maria's sister and dabbled in real estate investment for a few years until, at the end of the suspension this year, he was asked to helm the national football team.

Present day
Free Republics

Saad watched as the birds disappeared into the horizon, the morning breeze blowing against his face. He reached for his wallet. Inside, folded, were two pictures; one of his wife holding baby Aida, and the other of himself with a few of his teammates. The latter picture he took, tore into several pieces, and threw away to the wind; he did not know why he had waited so long just to do this. The other he looked at for a while, then returned to the wallet.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:22 am

Chapter 2: Inimabakesh Thulus

Today
Campground occupied by the Adabian team

Assistant manager Inimabakesh Thulus had largely kept to himself during Adab's visit to the Free Republics for the Independents Cup so far. He had never been a man of words to start with, or at least that's the way he had been ever since what he and fellow notables of Adabian football called "The Purge". That is, the suspension of the Football Association and the arrest and trial of hundreds alleged to have been involved in the scandals that tainted Adabian football. It's hard to believe it had been ten years since that ignominious event started.

Inimabakesh himself was a survivor of The Purge; he was arrested, tried, and promptly acquitted when the evidence indicated he had not been involved in any of the scandals. He once played for Baghdad City - which notably also hosted his now-boss Saad Kaykali - but had been retired for a while and was working as a coach in that same club when The Purge started. He was once dubbed the most boisterous man on the training ground, but age had quieted him. That, and the trauma of seeing so many of his former teammates and fellow staff members arrested and tried and some of them executed, along with the realization that many of them pretended to be his friends but had actually despised him for his honesty and played him for a fool the entire time.

But that was ten years ago. Manager and assistant manager, survivors of The Purge, were now intent on looking to the future and guiding a whole new generation of football players - hopefully more honest than the previous one - to glory.

The morning mist had cleared up, and Inimabakesh could see his boss' tent over there. Saad had set up his tent a few feet away from the nearest player. Not too far, but far enough to make it seem as if he were isolated from everyone else. As he was keen to clarify, it's not that he hated them; he just needed time to meditate and contemplate.

"You there, boss?" Inimabakesh called out as he looked into the inside of the tent. Saad was on his knees, facing away from the assistant manager, having just finished praying.

"Come inside, Inimabakesh," came the reply, "and don't call me 'boss'. We've known each other for years and we're beyond that. Besides you're a bit older than me, so it's a bit weird."

Inimabakesh crouched as he entered the tent; the tent was a bit too low for him to walk inside. Saad turned to him, and now they were both sitting, facing each other. "Why did you call me here? Oh, and how did you get a signal here? I didn't get anything. Tried to browse, tried to make a call, nothing happened."

"Then you better change your phone." Saad smiled. "Look, I just wanna tell you that my daughter Aida is coming here. She's just finished this summer program in Purgatio with a bunch of other foreign students. I haven't mentioned that to you, right? From there she'll fly to Adab first, then take a flight here. She might be here today, tomorrow, or the day after that, I don't know. But whenever she comes, I need you to pick her up at the airport and bring her here. Bring one or two of the players with you, if possible. She'd probably be feeling lonely after parting from her friends there and in need some cheering up. I'll tell you when she's actually here."

"Of course, I'll pick her up," said Inimabakesh. "Have I met Aida before? I seem to vaguely remember you carrying a little girl on your arms during training."

"Yep, that's her." Saad's smile broadened. "I remember that too. She was, like, two years old I think. Can you believe that she's eighteen now, and a university student? Time flies so fast." Suddenly his smile was gone, and Inimabakesh noticed his face growing grim. "She reminds me of her mother, you know. She's looking more and more like her with each passing day."

"Oh, Maria was beautiful. How long has she been gone?" asked Inimabakesh, before suddenly realizing that he was probably intruding too much. "No, wait, I'm sorry, I shouldn't-"

"Nah, it's alright," Saad said. "Seven years. I dreamed of her two nights ago. Everything was white, and in the middle of it all she was standing, just as sweet as on the day I first met her. I reached for her, I chased after her... but she's gone." He raised a finger to his eye, hoping that Inimabakesh wouldn't notice him wiping away a tear.

But Inimabakesh noticed anyway, and he quickly changed the subject so as not to upset his boss too much. "So, about the match with Neo-Romanum, I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too, but we must not underestimate them. We agree that they're probably a better team than Nurwiji, right? But that loss was just an aberration, I hope." Saad sighed. "I try to look on the positive side. We've been out of international football for ten years and we're fielding a team of high school and university-age students, but we actually did pretty well on that match. We just need to work more on our finishing. That's it. Their morale is great and the team spirit is there. Just the finishing."

"Well, you've done your best, really. The best thing that we can do right now is pray to God and hope that our boys do well on the field."

"I suppose so."
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:24 am

Chapter 3: Saad and Aida


Present day
Campground occupied by the Adabian team

Night had long fallen over the campground and most of the players, after so raucously celebrating their first international victory, had gone back to their tents, though still some lingered on the field between the tents, eating, laughing, and thinking about their triumph over Neo-Romanum and the challenges that still lay ahead. Even assistant manager Inimabakesh Thulus, who usually kept to himself, appeared to have a good time celebrating this victory with the players. He, too, had gone back to the tent to rest.

But Saad Kaykali had not, and tonight he was joined by his daughter Aida, who had just completed that student exchange program in Purgatio. She returned to Adab first, where she then changed flights and flew off to the Free Republics. She arrived at a fortuitous hour: right after the final whistle was blown in the match over Neo-Romanum. With victory assured and the pressure off his shoulder, Saad picked her up at the airport personally, accompanied by Inimabakesh. Nothing could describe Saad's joy at seeing his daughter again after what seemed to be months, or his daughter's happiness and relief when she was reunited with her father. As happy as she was there, she was happier to be with her father. In a personal sense, with Maria long gone, they only had each other.

Now they were standing at the end of the campground, where the open field gave way to the forest. Saad leaned against a tree, gazing at the stars. The good weather allowed the whole expanse of the universe to be so clearly laid out across the sky. In the background was faintly visible what Saad called "the great cloud" in his mind; no expert on astronomy, the Milky Way was not a part of his vocabulary. Leaning on the next tree was Aida, texting something to one of her friends back home. She gets a signal too, Saad thought. Maybe Inimabakesh should really get a new phone.

"You know," Saad said, turning to his daughter, "I still can't believe that so much time has passed. I remember carrying you on my arms, and you and your mother singing along to Chopin or a Disney tune or whatever it was. Sometimes I still think of you as our little girl, who once joked that she would one day overdose on ice creams." He let out a laughter, which echoed into the wilderness. "How do I still remember that joke? Even at the age of, I don't know, eight, you already had a twisted sense of humor."

"It's in the blood, Pa." Aida smiled, looking at her father for the first time in some twenty minutes, her fingers still dancing on the virtual keyboard. "I mean, I got it from you and Momma." She went back to the keyboard, noticing that she had made a few misspellings when not looking and letting out an "oh, come on" under her breath.

Saad sighed, and leaned harder against the tree. "You know, sweetheart, I really should thank you for standing by me even after all this time. When..." At this point, the memories came back flooding in, his speech halted, and his breathing became somewhat labored. "When... when I went to prison, and your mother and I separated, and you went to live with your aunt, and your mother... when everything became upside down, you were still a child. Yet you never complained, and you took everything that hit you with patience and..."

He took a brief glance at Aida. She was still looking at her phone, though her smile had disappeared and her face had taken on a grimer expression. "...well you know what I'm talking about. I was in prison and everyone thought I was guilty, and your mother died, and... you were so strong and you just took it all."

"Are you gonna say something like 'you're the strongest woman I've ever known'?" Aida finally interjected, this time not even bothering to take her eyes off the phone.

"But you are," Saad continued. "You went through so many things so early in your life, things that you did not deserve, and you went through it all. And after all that, even after I disappeared into prison for two years, you still acknowledged me as your father, and after I was released you still came back to me even though you could continue living with your princess aunt, and for that I thank you. I really do."

"You're the only one I have, Pa. You're my family, and I've always known you're not guilty," Aida replied. What she didn't say to her father, though it was obvious, was that the subject was too painful for her; as painful as it was for Saad, it was doubly so for his daughter. "Have I told you this before, Pa? I wanna go on another student exchange program."

"You just came back from Purgatio," Saad said, astonished. "You really wanna go again that quickly?"

"This program sounds great, Pa." Aida turned to her father, putting the phone in her pocket. "Besides, you're the one who told me it's important to learn more about foreign cultures and such and make friends from all over the world, maybe learn a few languages."

Saad couldn't help but laugh. She was right. The girl had always been better when it came to turning people's words against themselves, much better than he himself. That skill she inherited from her mother. "Can't say you're wrong there, Aida," he said. "Fine, you can go if you want to, but you gotta go home first, take some fresh clothes with you."

"Aww, thanks Pa, you're the best," Aida cooed, running to her father and smothering him in her hug. "I love you."

"I love you, honeypie." Saad looked up at the stars, and the Milky Way reigned still in the night.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:25 am

Chapter 4: We All Fail Sometimes


Today
On the campground following Adab's victory over Maryloupe

Mohammed Marramzi was on the cusp of the greatest achievement of his life so far, and at the same time he had just undergone perhaps the greatest humiliation of his life. Before thousands of watchful eyes, he had fumbled his goal kick, almost slipping and in the process kicking the ball backwards beyond his own goal line. His team had been up by two goals to nil early in the match against Maryloupe, but then the Maryloupians cut into the lead with a handsome counterattack which he was not able to respond to in time.

And, at that accursed point in time, the lead was lost. 2-2. And it was his fault, his foolish fault.

He had fallen on his knees, onto the ground, in an instant reduced into a sorry figure who had seemingly doomed his team and thrown away any chances of a victory in the worst way possible. He believed that he could remember the world blacking out on him for a moment, the cheers of the Maryloupians and his own confusion lost into the abyss. The next thing that he could recall was the voice of the manager, Saad Kaykali, ordering him in unequivocal terms to get back up, which he duly did.

The rest of the match seemed to pass in a blur. Secluded in the penalty area, he focused on himself and replayed that episode over and over again in his mind. He did not pay much attention to the back-and-forth action between his team and the Maryloupians, except when they were dangerously close to him. He could not remember watching his teammates score three more goals, tried to suppress the memory of that additional Maryloupian goal, but did remember joining in the celebrations after his team secured victory with a final score of 5-3.

In his desperation he barged into the press conference after the match, where he delivered the most sincere apology that he could make in front of the cameras. As the journalists sat there, stunned and dumbfounded at the sight in front of them, the manager was kind enough to offer his support and encouragement, and Mohammed could do nothing but listen to him.

Now they were back on the campground, the Adabian team's headquarters for the duration of their stay in the Free Republics. Despite assurances from his teammates that they did not hold him at fault, there was something about that foolish own goal that kept haunting Mohammed. Something in that goal seemed so disgusting. Unforgivable, perhaps. Maybe it was the fact that he almost slipped while attempting a goal kick, or the goal itself, or how he reacted to it, or that it happened in front of thousands, or just the sheer ridiculousness of the entire thing.

Even after all that, the team still pulled out all the stops in celebrating their victory. A victory is a victory, after all. But Mohammed held himself back and did not partake in any of the food, nor the singing. Quietly he retreated to his tent near the end of the campground, which he shared with defender Eannatum al-Tikriti, who was still outside. He made for his sleeping bag and was just about to slip under the covers when that familiar voice called into the tent. "Mohammed, are you there?" he inquired.

"Yeah, I'm here," Mohammed replied, turning his head to see the entrance to the tent shaking and a hand reaching inside. "I'll come outside-"

"No need," the voice responded "I'll come inside." Mohammed saw another hand reaching inside the tent, and then the rest of the body, crouching as he entered the tent, the moonlight revealing the face of Saad Kaykali as he settled by the side of Mohammed's sleeping bag.

"Look, kid, there's something that we need to talk about, and perhaps we should have talked about it earlier," said Saad, and they both knew what he meant. Mohammed raised himself a bit, looking at the manager. "When you... scored that own goal, when you fell to the ground after that, what was that?"

"What do you mean?" Mohammed sighed. "Well, I just... couldn't make sense of it, and I guess I just fell apart."

"And that's where the problem lies," said Saad, his voice taking on a firmer tone. "I'll be frank with you here, Mohammed. I chose you to be the captain for a reason. You are popular with and trusted by everybody on the team and I saw that leadership potential in you, and during the previous matches you performed with great ability and dignity as befitted a captain.

"But in this match you just fell apart so suddenly. That own goal was already bad enough, but at least we can pin it down to the fact that you slipped. It's very unfortunate but it happens occasionally. The problem is that, having scored an own goal and erased our lead, you proceeded to collapse in despair and you stayed that way for God knows how long. If I hadn't told you to stand up would you have stood up?"

"Yes," said Mohammed meekly, trying not to stare into his manager's face, "but not that quickly, I suppose."

"I get that you were stunned, Mohammed, and that whole thing was ridiculous," Saad replied, his exasperation starting to show through, "but you are the captain, the leader of the team on the pitch, the one that everyone turns to for inspiration, and you managed to... do that in front of your teammates, the staff, and God knows how many people in the stadium. You just... broke under pressure, you know. Perhaps we should have trained you more on maintaining your composure while under pressure, but whatever. You are the captain, and I trust you to set an example to your teammates. When something terrible befalls you, you stay calm and get back up! Don't let your emotions get the better of you, and don't you ever show it in front of the public during a match."

"Understood, boss."

"I know that there's a lot going on your mind right now, Mohammed." Saad slowly rose to his feet as much as the tent allowed. "Don't get me wrong here, Mohammed. I still trust you, and I still believe in you. I know that you have great potential, Mohammed, and I don't want to see it go to waste. Trust me, I was once the captain of my club, I was in your position too once. I once screwed up so badly during a match and it messed with my team's playing for the rest of the match. Well I just hope that wasn't one of those fixed matches. But my point is, everyone looks up to you and in a way they depend on you. You are their inspiration, and you must continue to inspire them, when we're winning and when we're losing, through rain and shine, no matter what.

"Now look at the bright side: we won the match. Regardless of whatever happened with you, we managed to win the match, and that's a positive thing." He turned his back on Mohammed and crouched towards the exit. "We still have another match coming up against Juvencus, and I trust that you will make the right decisions as the captain. Now go get some rest. Tomorrow morning we practice. I'll get the other players to go back to their tents too."

"Yes, boss. Thank you boss," Mohammed said almost tonelessly as Saad made his exit, leaving the keeper to take in his manager's words in the solace of the tent.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

User avatar
Adab
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:26 am

Chapter 5: The Girl


Taymour Frangieh had always been somewhat insecure about his position on the national football team. He was a minority in every way he could think of; he came from an upper - not even upper-middle, upper - class family while most of his teammates were from the middle and working classes, he was Christian in a team mostly composed of Muslims, and he was one of the only two 17-year-olds (the other being Salman al-Muntar) in a team otherwise dominated by 18- and 19-year-olds. Even among a bunch of teenagers, he was and felt like the most teenage of them all, and it always annoyed him whenever the other players lightheartedly brought up those aforementioned points.

But give credit where credit is due: far from breaking into the national team by virtue of wealth and connections, he made it in because of pure skill. With ten years having passed since the suspension of the Football Association, it was decided that the time had come to give Adabian football and the national team a fresh start. Banned and unwilling to take in any players from before the suspension - they had aged ten whole years and their achievements, whatever they were and regardless of whether or not they were involved - had been tainted by the scandals anyway - newly-appointed manager Saad Kaykali and his staff set out to find the most able and intelligent football players out of the country's teenagers. Trials were held across the country at the city level, then at the governorate level, culminating in a three-day national trial at the Adab City Stadium, where the last 250 men standing were to be whittled down to the eleven players of the national team.

And Taymour was there, at his own initiative, having made it all the way from the Beirut city trial. He did it despite opposition from his parents, who feared that it would distract him too much from school - he was a high school student, for God's sake - and thought it was a waste of time. After all, with so many competitors, what were the odds that Taymour would make it to the governorate trial, or even to the national one? As good as the boy was with the ball, there were surely many who were more talented and had devoted more of their time to the sport.

They never were supportive of his ambition to be a football player in the first place, especially when they were still unsure just how long the suspension would last. A quiet and analytical boy who, whenever he wasn't playing football, found solace in books, Taymour's parents thought he had the potential to be a lawyer and encouraged him to study law. It stunned them when Taymour made it to the national trial, and it amazed them when he made it to the starting eleven. Out of the hundreds of thousands who participated in the trials, their boy had somehow made it to the top at the tender age of seventeen. His parents had known him as a boy who loved football, like so many others; they never knew him as a football prodigy. Taymour, his parents, and Kaykali came to an agreement: he would be allowed to play for the national team and chase his dreams of becoming a professional football player, but he would also undergo homeschooling and, when the time came, attend university; his education would not be forsaken in the name of football.

Despite Taymour's withdrawn nature, he quickly won over his teammates with his skill and an underrated, if rarely used, ability for dark humor and sarcasm. Though he managed to establish a rapport with all his teammates, his greatest - and first - friend in the team was the captain, goalkeeper Mohammed Marramzi, who welcomed him into the team with open arms from the very beginning and encouraged him to interact with his teammates and vice versa. Mohammed, about whom the boss once commented that "leadership is just in his blood", devoted himself to his role as captain and constantly sought to uplift his teammates in any way possible. Taymour, for his part, saw in the keeper a constant and reassuring voice whenever he doubted his own abilities. He also grew close to Ephraim Orlev, the only Jew in the team, who bonded over the occasional feeling that they did not belong in the team and what they perceived to be their minority status there.

The team trained long and hard for their debut in the Independents Cup. They were well-aware that the entire country's hopes rested on them to restore Adabian football to its former glory after long periods of scandals, violence, and mismanagement and an entire decade of suspension. Day after day passed in the training camp, just outside Adab City, as the boss diligently drilled them in the ways of football. No one in the team bothered to keep track of just how many days they trained; they were simply too busy and, as far as they were concerned, the length of their training was nothing compared to the possibility of achieving international glory. They were, after all, eleven teenagers straight out of high school and university; the idea of breaking out of the monotony of their everyday life in such a way was very tempting to them, especially when they remembered that the Independents Cup was but a stepping stone to the Baptism of Fire and the World Cup.



Three weeks ago
Adab City


But now the flight to the Free Republics was three days away, and the boss decided to call it a day and give the players time to rest before the flight. He suggested that they get together at someone's house to celebrate the end of training. They agreed on Mohammed's house, which - though it was modest compared to the Frangieh family's mansion - was quite large, to say the least, and lent itself well to an occasion of this type.

It wasn't a wild party, nor did it resemble one; the Marramzi family had dragged out that old long table, which they claimed were a gift to one of their ancestors from some 17th-century Ottoman grand vizier, and they ate, told stories, and laughed over plates of kebab and dolma, among others. Salman Marramzi, the gracious host and Mohammed's father, was at the head of the table and looking positively radiant as he listened to the young men gathered in his house and told a few stories of his own, mostly regarding his son's childhood. Taymour, being himself, mostly kept quiet and smiled and laughed along. The boss delivered a short speech, praising his team and praying for success in the cup, after which the host rose from his seat.

"Thank you very much. That was a great speech indeed, Mr. Kaykali," the elder Marramzi opened his speech, beaming. Taymour was three seats to his left. "To be honest here, I don't know what to say. I just want to wish you all the best as you head to the Independents Cup in... the Free Republics, I believe? Honestly, I'm just amazed that you have done so much and gone so far at your age. I know you haven't actually played in the cup yet, but going through those trials, making it to the national team, and then undergoing all the training... it's simply amazing and I admire you very much for that. Tonight, I am a proud Adabian, but most of all I am a proud father. To watch my son make it all the way to the national team, something which his mother and I hadn't expected... I really don't know what to say, but only that you all are the greatest, and especially you, Mohammed. We are proud of you and we will support you..." He stopped to drink from his glass before adding, "...as long as you remember to study, son. Don't forget about the university."

That addition brought out a chorus of laughs echoing across the dining room, not least from Taymour, though it also made him think about his situation again. Though the Marramzis, too, wanted their son to continue their education, they were generally much more supportive of his football ambitions than Taymour's parents were of their own son's dreams, at least before he actually made it to the starting eleven. But all thoughts about the family were banished from his mind as the door slowly opened behind him. She crept into the room as quietly as she could, her footsteps making only the slightest of sounds in the room. Maybe it had something to do with her shoes?

"Ah yes, gentlemen, this is my daughter Maira, Mohammed's older sister," Salman introduced the girl, who came over to him and dutifully kissed his hand. "She just came back from studying with, where did you go again? Ah yes, she studied at her friend's house. You know, high school. She's eighteen, after all, she's going to have her final exams soon. Then she's going to graduate, and then she's off to university. Kids, they grow too fast nowadays, don't they, Mr. Kaykali? Do you have children, Mr. Kaykali? I don't remember."

"Yes," the boss said. "One daughter, Aida, with my late wife the princess. She's a sweet girl, looks so much like her mother and is just as smart as her."

"Kids are one of the greatest blessings that God could give us, Mr. Kaykali," said Salman. "Where do you send Aida to? Which school, I mean."

Whatever answer the boss gave the elder Marramzi, Taymour didn't hear it; his sight was focused on the girl and he didn't know what kept him looking at her. Maybe it was the brown curly hair, or the sweet smile she gave when she excused herself, or something else. He smiled too, though he didn't even realize it until a few seconds later. His head turned, following her to the door, and he swore to himself that she looked at him along the way, that they were looking at each other for a moment, that she appeared to blush and smile and nod at him as she closed the door behind her.

Everything about her was wonderful, now that Taymour thought about it. She could see it in her face, in her manners, even in her hair. And she looked like a good girl, and he kept thinking about her even after she had gone. Mohammed is lucky to have such a good sister. Smart, pretty... and just great. But after almost an entire minute of thinking about her, he began to have doubts. Maybe this isn't like the way I imagined it to be. This is... too good? Maybe I got carried too far away by my imagination.

He turned to his plate, only to remember that he had eaten all the kebab.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:27 am

Chapter 6: Guy and Girl

Three weeks ago
Adab City

Taymour Frangieh wondered to himself how all eleven of them suddenly ended up in Mohammed Marramzi's bedroom, doing the things that they were now doing. They were at Mohammed's house for some sort of farewell dinner before their flight to the Free Republics. That was supposed to be the only thing in their agenda, but then their driver went for a pee and stayed inside the bathroom for longer than anyone expected, because - as it turned out - he also needed to poop. The boss, Mr. Kaykali, apparently decided he should linger in the house for a while, as a matter of courtesy, and enjoy coffee on the front porch with Mohammed's father. The boys had finished the food and drank until their bellies were full, so in true teenage fashion they turned to the thing which was held in esteem by most people their age: video games.

And that's apparently how the Adabian national football team found themselves crammed in Marramzi's bedroom upstairs. Enlilbani Yargab and Shamsuiluna Zambiya were playing Total Football 18 on the console. By his own admission, Yargab was never that big of a gamer, and Zambiya was roundly beating him in their latest match, as the other teammates cheered them on. Eannatum al-Tikriti was drinking a can of soda which he had unceremoniously taken from the fridge downstairs. Ephraim Orlev had fallen asleep on Mohammed's bed, while Mohammed himself was lying on the floor, content with watching his teammates battle it out for video game supremacy, too lazy to drag himself up to his own bed. As for Taymour, he was lying on the bed next to Ephraim, reading Managing My Life by Sir Alex Ferguson, which Mohammed himself had read and then left on his bed.

And then he felt the call of nature. Having made a mental note of the last page he read, he jumped off the bed for the nearest bathroom, out of the bedroom and to the right, only to find that assistant manager Inimabakesh Thulus was inside. "Try the one downstairs," Mr. Thulus shouted from the inside, "but check if the driver isn't there anymore." Taymour rushed down the stairs, feeling nature's call growing louder, and - with the door open - promptly barged into the bathroom.

He emerged five minutes later a satisfied man, having ridden his belly of the feces. As he prepared to make his way upstairs, his attention turned to the black door a few feet in front and to his right. He remembered Mohammed mentioning something about a small library, mostly composed of his father's books. Taymour's family, too, maintained their own home library, which was surely larger than anything the Marramzis had to offer, but he wanted to see it for himself.

Turning his head in every direction to make sure nobody was around, Taymour slowly pushed the black door open. It was indeed the library, if you could call the room by that name. There were three shelves lining up in the center of the - somewhat small - room, and another two embedded on the wall. The first shelf was mostly history, scientific, and financial books, with a few on other subjects. Again turning his head and assuring himself that there wasn't anybody there, he closed the door behind and-

"Excuse me," Taymour jumped at the sound, calling out from behind. She was evidently taken by surprise too, gasping as she saw Taymour jump. "Hey, look, uh, don't be scared. You're one of Mohammed's teammates, right?"

"Well... yeah, I am," he replied apprehensively, not sure how to react. Slowly he turned around to see the source of the voice.

"Look, I don't mean to- oh." He knew her the instant he finally saw her, and she knew him too, but not his name. She was, of course, Mohammed's older sister Maira. "Oh, hi there, you're his sister, right? I- I'm sorry for disturbing. I think I'm-"

"No, wait, don't, it's alright," she cut him off, a little smile on her face. He could see her inch just a bit closer to him. She was carrying a book, but he couldn't see the title, for she was showing the back cover to him. "It's my fault here. I- I didn't mean to surprise you. I'm Maira, Mohammed's sister, and you're..."

"Taymour," he said somewhat hesistantly, prolonging each syllable. "Taymour Frangieh... I play with your brother Mohammed in the team." He tried to smile back out of politeness; it was easier than he thought. "Nice to meet you... Maira."

"Nice to meet you too," said Maira in that kind voice of hers. "I don't, you know, really follow football that much, so I tend to forget your names, the names of Mohammed's teammates."

"That's fine," he smiled. "Nothing to worry about." And out of nowhere, he tried to find something that they could talk about. "What's that book you're carrying, anyway?"

"Oh, this one?" she looked down at the book and turned it over so Taymour could see the title. "Well, it's, you know, a book by Darwin about worms, which most people call Worms." She lowered her head and squinted her eyes. "Or, if you go by the full title-"

"The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms," he completed her words.

"Wait, so you know-"

"I looked at the title." He calmly pointed at the book, which, having been turned by Maira, was now showing its front cover.

"Well..." She suddenly realized that she was out of words, and though she wasn't sure what prompted her, she couldn't help but laugh. And laugh loudly she did. And the sight of this girl laughing without any apparent reason was enough to make Taymour laugh too. "Well that's quite smart of you, I must admit."

"Can't help myself," Taymour said between laughs, gazing at the girl in front of him. Then he started for the door. "Look, it's nice meeting you... here, but the boys, you know, need me upstairs and they might get suspicious if I'm away for too long. I'm sure you understand."

"Oh, I understand very much," she said, grinning, as Taymour opened the door and crept past it, yet again looking around. "You're a smart guy, Taymour. Just keep doing what you do."

Taymour began to close the door, but as he did it he looked inside again. She was still standing there, smiling, holding her book tight. "And you're a smart girl, too." And then he closed the door.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:28 am

Chapter 7: Saad Kaykali

Early 2011
Adab City Prison


Saad Kaykali sat solemnly on his prison bed and gazed at the clock high above him, its hands spelling out 7:25 a.m. That clock was one of the few things that his prison cell were furnished with, though he supposed he should be grateful to the authorities for placing him in a cell that was somewhat humane. Between the clock, the bed, the fan, and the small window on the door, the cell didn't offer much - would it be a prison cell if it offered more? - but at least it didn't actually constitute psychological torture.

It sure was better than being placed in solitary confinement, a fate that had befallen a few of his teammates, or sentenced to death.

Starting from 2008, Emperor Tizqar III and the government embarked on a mission to reform Adabian football. The sport, the most popular in the country, was never known for its sparkling-clean image, and the Emperor resolved to weed out the corruption and hooliganism that had become nearly synonymous with the sport once and for all. The Football Association, the national team, and the entire league system were suspended, putting effectively everyone employed by them out of a job. In what later became infamous as The Purge, hundreds upon hundreds suspected of involvement in the various scandals that befell Adabian football were arrested. Everyone from the janitor to the Football Association chief executive faced their reckoning. Many were freed after a short while, many were brought to the courtroom, and many received their punishment. Whether they deserved it or not, an enraged public lusted for justice, and many did receive "justice" in whatever form was meted out to them.

Saad Kaykali, of Baghdad City FC, was hailed as the greatest player of his generation, at least until the revelations started coming out and the allegations were sounded over radio, television, and the Internet. Following the suspension of football competitions, he, his teammates, and members of the Baghdad City staff were arrested, imprisoned, and dragged to the courtroom, charged with involvement in years of match-fixing. The judge shamelessly recommended death for all of them, which was pretty harsh considering that there was still a lot of evidence to go through. Saad was granted a reprieve after his lawyers proved that he was unaware of the match-fixing going on around him and in fact was merely "a tool" in the eyes of his teammates, who excluded the team captain from their plans because of his unwavering honesty, and the mafia, who couldn't afford to eliminate him because of his popularity.

His lawyers eventually managed to have him sentenced to "just" seven years in prison - the charge being that the team captain was negligent and failed to prevent his teammates from committing the crimes - for which he was rather dismayed and tried to force his lawyers to push for his complete exoneration, arguing that he had been entirely unaware of whatever his team had done behind his back. Requests for an appeal were rejected, though, and Saad had to accept his fate. All things considered, he was pretty grateful; he watched as his manager and some of his teammates were placed on the electric chair, received the injection, or went before the firing squad - some of the executions were opened to other prisoners and the general public to "make an example" - and he himself soldiered on. Still, Saad Kaykali the football star was now Saad Kaykali the prisoner. There was no denying that.

Deep in his contemplation, Saad stared blankly at the wall. He didn't notice the door inching open, nor the guard stepping into the cell in his boots. It took a tap on his shoulder for him to be brought back to his senses. "Come with me," said the guard, his deep, ravaged voice echoing across the dank cell. "Your lawyers want to see you."

Saad nodded, acknowledging his presence. He rose to his feet, his hands momentarily holding on to the mattress, and said not a word as he followed the guard out of the cell.



Saad had been in the visiting room a few times before. Certainly it was more comfortable than his cell; for one, it actually had an air conditioner. The room was empty but for a table and a few chairs at the center of the void, where his two lawyers had been sitting for a while now. They were a good team, Saad thought, and they had done much for him. Administrative hassles had kept them waiting for their client for more than an hour, but now they were face-to-face with him, and it was the best that he could do for them. The same guard stood by the door stony-faced, his posture reminding Saad of the Terracotta Army.

There were no documents on the table, no pen laid down, no stack of papers to go through; this was not to be a discussion of Saad's legal maladies. He noticed that his lawyers were quieter than usual; often they were the first to speak up, but this time, seated stiffly in the room, it seemed as if they were waiting for their client to speak. So Saad took the chance. "Thank you for coming, you two," he said, his face a mixture of contemplation and resignation. He leaned slightly over the table, his head sunken on his hands. "So, uh, I think by now you will have already informed the qadi court, and of course Maria and her family... I hope she's agreed to it. I don't want to make this even more painful to her."

Judicial divorce was one of the main methods used to dissolve a marriage in Islam. In this case, Saad had not heard from Princess Maria Ashurbanipal for a few weeks and had not seen her for months, having decided to separate from her when his legal troubles began in an attempt to spare her from the constant media attention. This was purely his decision, and his wife - who insisted on sticking by him no matter what - took it very hard when the separation occurred, but for Saad the stress from the media attention, his obvious inability to provide, and his then-uncertain fate meant there was no way the marriage could be preserved. From prison he had asked the Princess and their daughter Aida to "forget me for now and live your own life"; their association with him was becoming too much of a burden. Saad had considered the talaq method (the husband simply announced to the wife that he repudiated her) and having his lawyers announce it to his wife, but later opted for divorce in the courts, hoping that the formal and "less sudden" process would send a message to her that he was ending the marriage on good terms.

The lawyers sighed and stared at each other for a few long seconds. Whatever was conveyed between them in that moment, Saad couldn't see it. Khalid Murad - the older lawyer, one of the best in the country, a wily 65-year-old with a thick mustache and hair even whiter and more unkempt than Einstein's - finally took the initiative. "Yes," he assured his client, though his voice reeked of apprehension, "we have done that."

"Good," Saad replied, almost tonelessly. "So, what's the next step again? I suppose that's the one with the arbitrator, but by this point that's just a formality."

He saw that Khalid intended to say something, but instead the old lawyer found himself clenching his lips shut. If he weren't at a loss of words, then he sure wasn't letting them out, either. His eyes darted over to his side, coming down upon Eliyahu Remez, the quieter of the two lawyers but also the more diligent and meticulous. The implication was clear: Eliyahu was to deliver the news. He picked up the message. "The Princess and her family have been informed, and..." his voice trailed off and he lowered his head, unable to look at Saad. "...and..." he gathered up the strength to face his client, if rather halfheartedly. "...you must forgive me for delivering this terrible news, Mr. Kaykali. Your wife..."

Sensing that Eliyahu was going nowhere with his words, Khalid decided to take over from him. "Your wife has asked for the process to be suspended and begs that you consider a reconciliation." He stared squarely at Saad, letting his client take in his words. "Your wife has leukemia. She collapsed a few days ago and is currently at the hospital. The family had tried to inform you but this prison is such a godforsaken administrative mess they're unable to get through to you. Saad, I'm sorry, but she's dying."
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:31 am

Chapter 8: Take Me to Her


Early 2011
Saad Kaykali's house, Baghdad

Saad Kaykali's feet touched the pavement with not much of a sound. He looked around him, wondering what his neighbors would think of him now, but there was no one else around. Perhaps everyone just happened to be away, or no one bothered to come out and greet him now that he was a prisoner, but he preferred it that way. The sirens ceased and the engine came to a stop. The policeman who had been sitting beside Saad during the ride stood next to him and opened his handcuffs, while his friend who drove the car sauntered over to Saad's other side, watching solemnly as the former footballer - free of those little chains - stepped towards the house which he had not seen for a long time. It was an upscale neighborhood, but the house itself wasn't very extravagant; visually it didn't quite stand out from the neighboring houses.

But just for how long? Saad could have sworn he hadn't been here for years, but then again he had pretty much lost track of time while in prison. A more logical explanation, he kept assuring himself, was that it had been many months since he was here, though just what he meant by "many", he himself wasn't sure. The world marched on in a blur, leaving behind a multitude of memories to be lost in the mazes of time and a man who no longer was sure if he did actually live that life that he imagined he lived: the life of a superstar, a footballer, one of the greatest and most inspiring people in his country.

The world marches on in a blur was the mantra that he kept repeating to himself, victim of a seemingly long chain of events mashed together in a short timeframe. How did this all happen so quickly? He didn't understand just how much the world had turned upside down on him, and he convinced himself that he never would. He had grown distant from his wife and daughter during his imprisonment, partly because of himself, as he urged them to go on living without him, but one thing that had kept him going was the knowledge that there were still out there, waiting for him, and now that possibility was about to be taken away from him.

The first piece of news that he received regarding his wife's illness wasn't even about her going to the doctor or taking medication. She was dying. That's what Saad's lawyers told him. The whole time he knew nothing about the illness - though he was assured that the onset was rather sudden - and when he was finally told, he was told that she was dying. It seemed as if he had not been given time to contemplate the full extent of the situation and offer his support for his wife, let alone to prepare for her death. It all seemed to be happening so quickly. When Saad was first informed, she was still in the hospital. Then he was told she had been brought home; there was nothing more that the doctors could do. Now that it was happening, there was nothing that he himself could do but support his wife, and that's what he had been doing for the last thirteen years or so.

The government had confiscated much of Saad's property in the aftermath of his arrest and incarceration, but ownership of this house had been assigned to his wife. Thank God I married someone from the royal family. Whatever happened behind the scenes was something he didn't like to think about, but he was certain that his wife had used her influence and stature to keep the house. Saad knew that some of his in-laws in the royal family were sympathetic towards his condition and believed he wasn't guilty at all, and they might have helped his wife. If he had married an ordinary girl, the house would have been taken away and sold long ago.

Sometimes it paid to marry someone with connections, but of course he did it out of love. Maria was the only one that he ever loved. And soon she would be gone. Once they were a princess and a footballer, their marriage capturing the imagination of an entire nation. Now they were a dying patient and a prisoner, and you could say she, too, was a prisoner - confined not behind bars, but inside her failing body. But the love never died.

Without a word he marched past the fence, through rows of green and brownish grass. One of the policemen stayed behind in the car, but the other was never more than a few feet behind him. The grass hadn't been taken care of very well, but between his trial and imprisonment and Maria's illness it was understandable. Now that I think about it, is the staff even still here? He expected to see a few nurses and maybe a clergyman around the place - according to his lawyers, she insisted that she die at home and refused to hear anything about the local hospice - but what about the old staff? The driver, the gardener, the housekeeper, were they still there?

The door was in front of him and his hand reached for it, but before he could knock someone opened it for him. Maybe he had heard the sirens. He was a short man with a short mustache, his hair rapidly greying. His eyes widened when he saw the visitor and he nearly jumped back in shock. "M-Mr... Mr. Kaykali?" he said, mouth agape, still staring at the visitor.

"Walid," the visitor nodded solemnly. "It's good to see you again. Don't mind the policeman, he won't do you any harm."

Walid the old gardener was still here, thank God. Behind him Saad could see a nurse crossing the room, and then another one in the opposite direction. The gardener stepped aside, letting Saad inside for the first time in many months. The policeman followed him. The nurses had disappeared from sight. For a minute no one said a word. They all stood still, taking in the reality of the situation. Saad gazed at the lamp above. And indeed there was nothing that had to be said.

"Mr. Kaykali," the gardener spoke in a faint, low voice, breaking the silence. He was still standing by the door. "D-do you... know-"

"I know," he said, and then a brief silence. "Where is she?"

He could hear Walid breathe deeply behind him. He was reluctant to get the words out. Maybe he couldn't bear to let him see her? "The bedroom."

"Take me to her. I want to see her."
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Founded: May 28, 2014
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Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:32 am

Chapter 9: All Roads Lead Back to...


Two weeks ago
Adab City

Taymour Frangieh drove himself round and round the streets, hands holding on tight to the steering wheel, teeth clenched shut and his lips letting out not even a sight. The streets were mostly deserted - not surprising considering they were really on the outskirts of the city - but even if they had been filled to the brim it wouldn't have mattered to him anyway. The Beirut boy was lost in the moment, caring for nothing and no one, and he didn't see any reason to care anyway. Tonight the traffic lights were of no importance to him. Nor were the few pedestrians he encountered, crossing the road beneath dimmed lights and signs of mom-and-pop shops closed for the night.

An outsider's idea of Adab City was of the greatest metropolis in the Middle East, a monument to the modern era, skyscrapers bunched together, a technological marvel and economic center. Indeed it was the most visible face of the city. Yet, like so many other cities around the world, it too had its dark, dilapidated parts, where poverty was the name of the game and only the bravest dared to come out at night, amid whispers of robbery and general lawlessness. This was the face that no good person dared to show, and this was the place where Taymour sought comfort from his troubles, though deep down he knew that he couldn't find it here.

Perhaps it was a mistake to be at the top of the world at such a tender age. Was he being punished by God? Taymour Frangieh was born into a relatively wealthy family in Beirut. He likely could have just invested the money in whatever he liked and then spent the rest of his life sitting idly at home and still leave a fortune to his heirs. But that wasn't the life that Taymour imagined for himself, and he turned to the one thing that truly made his life: football. He was all of seventeen when the Adabian national team made its way, against all odds, to the quarterfinals of the Independents Cup. Now eighteen, he found himself part of the country's World Cup squad. The World Cup. The money from the Independents Cup, the sponsorship deals, and of course that little part of the family fortune were a little overwhelming for the young man, but he tried to deal with the matter as wisely as he could.

He dropped out of homeschooling (allegedly without the family's consent) and broke away from his parents, declaring that he was leaving Beirut for good. He bought a house just outside Adab City. Nothing too extravagant, just another bungalow. And he treated himself to a car. Granted it was a small city car, but if anything it showed something of a business acumen in the young man; he wasn't going to spend his hard-earned money on some luxury car or SUV that would likely never have a passenger over the next few years. Sounds good for our man, right? Well it was all good for him until he returned to Beirut for a while to visit his parents and high school friends, upon which he was informed that one of his closest friends had died. He had been his friend at middle and high school. He was suck in broad daylight by a driver who was clearly out of his mind. Yet another young life needlessly wasted by driving under influence.

From time to time he would find himself stalked day and night, occasionally by fans and much more often by paparazzi, who at one point photographed him entering his house after a night with some of his teammates at the local cafe. What was on their mind? His teammates insisted it was his good looks - I don't even look that good - combined with his introverted personality, which gave him something of an "otherworldly aura". Lawsuits were on his mind, but he still hadn't gotten around to actually suing those people. Between facing constant violations of his privacy and his own mortality, it was inevitable that things would soon get into his head. Terrible, useless, disorienting things. Anger with a dose of desperation and paranoia. So that takes us to where we are now, as that sweet small city car made its way to one which it had traveled less than an hour ago. Going nowhere in the dead of the night, with no clear direction and no clear motive but to clear up his mind and curse the wicked, unfair world.

He had long lost track of time when clarity finally reigned in his mind once more. By his own estimation, he had been driving around and around, back and forth, crossing the same streets for a full hour, maybe two. Not that it mattered anymore; the night was growing old and the clock had struck midnight. Taymour had heard the unsavory news and all the terrible rumors that came with it; as angry as he was, he was not angry enough to pick a fight with thieves, robbers, burglars, and their kind.

Soon he was riding down the nearby highway, but this was not the direction home. Why didn't he want to go home? Why, at midnight, wouldn't he go back to the comforts of his house and jump onto the bed and fall asleep right away? Did he want to avoid the paparazzi, or was he too angry to even bother with them, and weren't those two things not mutually exclusive? At least he was somewhat better at thinking straight by this hour, though he wasn't sure why he wasn't heading home. Then he tried to remember why he even decided to take this particular highway. But he never felt it was time to turn around and go back home.

Then he remembered the last time he took this highway, six nights ago when he was driving to a dinner thrown by a grateful host for the national team and their staff. That was the first time he had visited the place since before the Independents Cup. The grateful host, in fact, was himself a member of the national team: Taymour's friend and captain Mohammed Marramzi. The dinner was at the family home. He and his dad sure love throwing dinners. Not that it was a cause for complaint; the food was good and everyone was happy to be there, if not for the food then at least for the video games.

At the dinner, Mohammed had mentioned that his parents were going abroad on a business trip the next morning and wouldn't be back for at least a week. Lots of clients to meet, lots of deals to be made. By now they would surely be abroad, leaving the house to Mohammed, his sister Maira, and the housekeepers. For a house that big, I bet it's pretty vacant right now. Ah, Maira, Mohammed's older sister, a nice and sweet girl, and really smart too. From the first time they met the young man had harbored... feelings for her. They knew each other, always talked whenever he was at the house, though he wasn't sure if he could honestly say they were friends at this point. They shared an interest in books and science and all that- alright, maybe it was a friendship, and they certainly respected each other and appreciated each other's presence, but whether he could take whatever this relationship was to the next stage was still very much questionable. That he was quite shy around girls didn't exactly help.

Now Taymour was still on the highway. The radio station had called it quits for the night and was playing their last song, with the dulcet tone of Lit's A. Jay Popoff announcing that "the car is in front yard and I'm sleeping with my clothes on." The night marched on and he still didn't feel like coming home, for reasons that his mind could not properly articulate, let alone his mouth. Maybe it was the paparazzi, maybe he was just too angry at life to even come home, maybe everything just seemed to have turned against him. But at least he still had the team to rely on; they would never betray him, sell him out, and Mohammed was no exception. If anything, he was the best and wisest of the bunch. So he made his decision: he would drive over to Mohammed's place, and maybe stay the night there. The fans and paparazzi were never really attracted to Mohammed; his was a safe place.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:33 am

Chapter 10: Her


Early 2011
Saad Kaykali’s house, Baghdad

Saad could feel the nurses’ eyes darting towards him every step of the way, as he proceeded to what was once his bedroom. None of the people here he recognized, and he felt as though he had never been in this house. For Saad, life as a free man had become nothing more than an outlandish dream, a figment of a past so increasingly distant to him. With each step he analyzed what were once his possessions: the carpet, the table, the chairs, the pictures on the wall, everything that once belonged to him. Seeing them once again felt like a bizarrely new experience, and for a man who had so forcibly dissociated himself from the past this was nothing too strange.

Walking beside him was Walid the old gardener, and one or two feet behind them the policeman. Along the way Walid rattled off a series of names, those who were once at Saad and his wife Maria’s service, and they remained loyal to his wife even as he was sentenced to prison. Saad had heard almost nothing about them over the last few months. “Salim is still with us, sir,” said Walid, referring to the driver. His voice was solemn, tinged with sadness, “but he went home to Sharm El Sheikh like a day or two ago. His mother got sick again and he doesn’t know if he’ll make it this time. So Mrs. Kaykali told him he should go home. So he went home. I don’t know when he’ll be back.”

Salim’s mother had been in poor health for quite some time. Six months ago it was pneumonia; it was quite severe and the doctors told the family to prepare for her passing. But it wasn’t her time yet for the next world, so she rallied, and somehow she recovered. Salim had intended to ask Maria for help in covering the medical costs, but between her lack of income and her gradually weakening health she herself needed the money, so she reluctantly directed him to her siblings in the imperial family – on whose generosity she had been depending since Saad went to prison anyway – who covered the costs.

Now the old lady had once again come down with pneumonia, and the prognosis was no better. She was lucky to survive the last time; odds were she wouldn’t be so lucky this time.

“Give him as much time as he needs. His mother would do well to have him by her side,” Saad advised. His face turned at that old clock up on the wall, hanging next to a picture of him and his wife in happier times. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. Why didn’t Maria tell me? Oh, but she’s got her own troubles as well, and I did tell her not to bother with me. And I no longer have the money anyway and I’m in prison. I’m sorry.”

They were now standing before the bedroom door, which was shut. “Mr. Kaykali,” Walid said, watching his former employer scanning the door, “I just want to warn you, you might not… like what you will see inside. Mrs. Kaykali’s condition-”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Saad cut him off. “Let me do the worrying. You’ve all worried enough for a lifetime, and I haven’t been around here for quite a while.”

Slowly he reached for the handle, grasping it as softly as he could, for a moment unsure if he had the stomach to see what was behind the door. He ran his fingers along the handle, breathing deeply, turning his face to the right. “There’s a nurse inside, I think, maybe two,” Walid said. “I saw them entering the room just before you arrived. And Alulim the imam, if you remember him, he’s also inside. And Aida too, of course.”

“Good,” said Saad simply, quietly bowing his head against the door. His hand was still on the handle, unmoving. “She needs all the help she can find. You’ve all taken care of her so well. Thank you for that.”

The gardener managed a smile. Next to him the policeman was silent, his face almost expressionless, landing his gaze on the two men with him and the various amenities in the house. Saad noticed the revolver resting on the policeman’s hip. “If it doesn’t trouble you, and I really mean no offense with this,” Saad turned to him, “don’t let my wife see you. Try hiding behind the door, or just standing somewhere that my wife can’t see but you can still see me. She’s really had her own share of troubles. She doesn’t need to see her husband in the room with a policeman behind him, holding a gun or something. She doesn’t need to see a gun in the room.”

The policeman was silent for a while, but then nodded. “I understand, sir,” he replied, his tone slightly flat and his gaze now squarely at the prisoner he had been tasked to watch. He stepped back and behind Walid.

“You can just come in if you want to, Mr. Kaykali,” informed the gardener. “I just thought you might like to know that.”

Saad smiled at the gardener, and though it was brief it was the broadest smile he had managed the entire day, as if saying “thank you” with his mind to the loyal gardener. His hand slid along the handle but didn’t establish a firm hold on it. His head was still resting on the door, his eyes slammed shut. “I don’t know if I want to see this.” His voice was suddenly reduced to a barely discernible half-whisper. “I… just imagining Maria in her current state. I don’t know, I’m not sure I can do this… especially after everything.”

He raised his head, only to again lower it on the door. His voice became slightly stronger. He was facing Walid and the policeman. “Walid, do you know I sued for divorce from Maria?”

Walid was silent, but then nodded. “Your lawyers have been here a few times, Mr. Kaykali. That’s how we know.”

“Do you think Maria will forgive me for suing for divorce?” The voice had returned to a half-whisper; Saad was hoping none of the nurses running around the place or the people behind the door could hear him. “I just wanted the best for all of us, you know. I didn’t mean to make it even more difficult for her. I just felt like I had to give her the opportunity to get away from me, get away from this all, start anew with her life, and take Aida with her, since I’m in prison and I’ve become too much of a liability.”

Walid and the policeman inched closer to hear him; his whisper had taken on a more solemn tone, but it was just as barely hearable as before.

“But I didn’t know that she was already ill at the time. No one at prison informed me until later. Trust me, if I had known what was going on her, if I had the full information at the time, I wouldn’t have sued for divorce. Trust me, I wouldn’t have done that. Now she’s dying and I feel like I’ve done everything wrong and I’ve hurt her in the process. It’s not even doing things the wrong way that bothers me, it’s that I might have hurt her. And I never wanted to hurt her.”

The two men with him listened intently to each and every one of his words, even as they felt the beginnings of boredom by the end of the speech. “Mr. Kaykali, if I might make a suggestion,” said Walid, as behind him the policeman stood, stoic, “this could be the time to… clear up those things, clear up the misunderstandings. I’m sure you understand this much better than I do, sir. This is just my suggestion.”

“You’re right,” Saad replied, almost tonelessly. For a moment he took his hand off the handle, only to then return it there. This time he held on to the handle firmly. As he was about to open the door, a thought came to him to knock first, in the name of politeness if not for anything else. That way his entry wouldn’t be a complete shock to everyone in the room, including the patient.

So he knocked on the door, but he didn’t wait for anyone inside to open it for him, nor for any response at all. With his gentle touch the door inched open. Walid stood behind him, while the policeman removed himself behind the door, peeking to the other side, revolver on hip, as Saad stood quietly where he had opened the door. Behind him, Walid, too, was quiet. Another nurse was about to enter the room, only to see the ongoing scene, and stood still in her position.

Not a word was spoken, no greeting was exchanged, and no laughter was heard in the place. A few feet right in front of Saad was his wife. If a conversation was carried out at this moment, then it was probably done with their minds. Still, Saad had once again seen his wife, and for him that was a triumph.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:35 am

Chapter 11: Night Out


Two weeks before the Cup of Harmony starts
Tayip's Diner, Adab City

When Tayip Raman, 25 years old and newly arrived from Antakya, opened his restaurant in this then-nondescript neighborhood of Adab City in 1997, he couldn't have imagined that two decades later his establishment would be one of the most popular in the city, its offerings - a mixture of Adabian, Arabic, and Turkish dishes - sought after day and night by the inhabitants of the country's capital, including the burgeoning middle class which had since poured into the neighborhood in large numbers, transforming Ismailia into the capital's fastest-growing suburb. It was no luxurious establishment, it had no long and glorious history attached to its name, it was not associated and nor did it try to be associated with the rich and famous, and its reputation, especially in its early years, spread almost solely by word of mouth. It was decidedly ordinary; try driving past the restaurant and you might only barely notice it, a humble two-floor establishment squeezed between a law firm and the local office of the Adab Postal Service. It did not offer that many seats, and consequently was often filled to its capacity; reservations often had to be made a few days in advance.

Yet - or perhaps because of it - the restaurant had become one of Adab City's most beloved, a place where overworked employees and cash-strapped college students could hang out at night, where families gathered and teenagers who had gone through a painful breakup could find joy in the food and the homely environment. Tayip Raman was still the chef, and though he was now twenty-two years older and focusing more on the financial side of the business, he could still be found in the kitchen from time to time, his cooking skills undiminished by the march of time. It was an honor to be served personally by the chef, which happened quite randomly; that is, whenever Tayip felt like doing it.

Tonight the honor fell to two customers at the far, rather dimly-lit corner of the first floor, their table right beside the stairs leading to the upper floor. They were the most notable customers the establishment had seen in some time; Tayip knew this, and perhaps that was why he chose to serve them himself as soon as the two made their reservation. If the other customers knew who the two were, then they gave no indication, for the two stepped into the place quietly and assumed their seats unhassled. A few heads turned and whispers were uttered, but otherwise they were left to themselves. Granted they were wearing baseball caps and shades which they never took off, so that might have helped. A third seat was kept empty; he would be arriving separately.

Tayip serenely emerged from the kitchen, marching to the table accompanied by one of his cooks. Two plates of alinazik kebab and two glasses of Turkish tea were laid on the table - one for each guest - and Tayip nodded to them with a smile. Above them the old lamp flickered. "As you have ordered," he said, his teeth nearly showing through the smile. "It's my honor to serve you. Enjoy our offering, and of course, we'll be in the kitchen if you need more." Then he disappeared into the kitchen with the cook.

One hand was wrapped on the spoon, the other holding on to the fork. The two men smiled, exchanged a few words, and looked around, making sure no one was staring at them. Then they began eating. Saad Kaykali and Naram-Sin Araqasdah, President of the Adab Football Association (AFA), had been longtime customers of the establishment. Or used to, in Saad's case. The last time he was here was more than ten years ago, maybe twelve; this was his first visit since his imprisonment.

"Still as nice as I remember it," Saad commented between spoonfuls of rice entering his mouth. "You know, the last time I was here... I was with a few of my mates, before the whole thing went down, and it was really nice. We talked about our title prospects, our families, wives, girlfriends, how much money we're getting this year, just the usual business. It's unbelievable just how much things have changed since then. Some of them are dead, for example. I think Jalil has just been released from prison, right?"

Naram-Sin drank from the glass, then paused for a while as he tried to remember who Saad was talking about. "Ah yes, Jalil Rabbani, that's his name, right?" He put the glass down softly, staring at Saad, squinting his eyes as the national team manager nodded at him. "I think he was in there for too long. We know the whole team was guilty and all that - alright, I know you weren't guilty, but you get my point - but I feel Jalil deserved a lighter sentence. He's the youngest in your team, right? He's just a bit gullible, and he's not into the whole plan. Honestly I just wish him the best."

Saad nodded again. "He was a promising youngster," he remembered, his voice tinged with regret. His hands gently landed on the plate, and he let go of the spoon. "19 years old and already in the first team, the future of the club. He reminded me of... 19-year-old me. It seemed like he had this whole bright future ahead of him, and then he had to lose 11 years to prison. Yeah, he wasn't into the whole plan, though I think he at least knew or sensed what his teammates were up to. Not that he was completely innocent, either, but he just got carried away with everybody else. Including me, admittedly, though I knew nothing. He did his time, but he didn't deserve that much. Fair, but unfair, I guess. Well, the past is the past, and there's nothing I can do about it. At least he wasn't sent to the chair like some of the devils. We all deserved the punishment, though some of us deserved it more than the others, or less. I wonder what he's going to do with his time now."

"His problem is that he didn't have a family or money to rely on," Naram-Sin replied. "You were lucky, Saad, in that you still had many supporters and friends in high places and they came to your rescue when you needed them, and then there's your in-laws in the imperial family. Now, I'm not saying that you got back on your feet just because of them, but they played their part, and you know it to be true. Jalil, on the other hand-"

"I know about Jalil's family." The young man had talked and told tales about his family to Saad and their fellow teammates at Baghdad City; the things he had seen and experienced were sometimes too horrific to mention, and many of them inflicted by the people who were supposed to protect him. Football was his escape; it gave him the hope and confidence he lacked, the friends that he needed, and most of all the joy and peace which had always eluded him. Then it became his doom. "He's been dealt a bad card all his life, and I hope Allah will be good to him now. He's suffered more than enough."

"Yes," Naram-Sin said simply, before going back to the half-finished food. At the center of the floor, on the other side of the stairs, a band had taken up what remained of the space. It was the usual setup: singer, guitarist, bassist, and drummer; there was barely any space for the drum kit, so they had to remove a table just for tonight. From time to time Tayip would invite a local band to light up the night; this one, he said, was composed solely of students from the University of Adab, which incidentally was also where Saad's daughter Aida was. Tayip's son was also a student there and it was he who brought the band to his father's attention. Saad made a mental note to approach the band after the show and ask if any of them knew his daughter.

As they were on the other side of the stairs, Saad and Naram-Sin's view of the band was rather obscured, but that didn't mean they weren't paying attention to the show. "Thank you very much, it's great to be here," said the singer after introducing himself and his friends. They dubbed themselves The Upstarts and the singer described themselves as a "60s to 2010s cover band, but mostly 60s to 90s rock and pop and country, 'cos that's what we love and know best and what we're good at." Pretty good name, Saad thought. A bit plain, but not bad at all.

The band began playing their first song, and the audience was soon tapping their feet and moving their heads to the groove, especially the older folks. The sound quality wasn't the best, but not atrociously bad either. This was a song from Saad's teenage years and was quite the hit in Adab back in the day. Saad knew the tune and was bobbing his head but he struggled to put a name to it. The band didn't bother to mention the title of the song and the artist behind it and instead launched immediately into the song. Not that Saad was complaining; he was enjoying this more than he expected to, and it brought back some good memories from that time. But what's the name of this song? What's its name?

"'Handle with Care,' nice song," Naram-Sin chimed in, and then Saad remembered it all. "It's that band with, uh, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne and some other guys, I think?"

"The Traveling Wilburys! It's them, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty," Saad brightened up, bobbing his head excitedly and tapping his feet louder than before. The singer was surprisingly good, at least in imitating his heroes' vocal styles; the song featured parts with lead vocals by no less than three of the band's members, and this singer here sang everything. The audience was certainly appreciative, and Saad was no exception, and it was encouraging him. When the song came to a close they launched into Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love"; this time they actually announced the title and the artist before playing it.

"Well, looks like this night is becoming an 80s throwback. That band is pretty good, though," Naram-Sin commented between sips of tea. "Did the guy's dad make the playlist for them?"

"If he did then I'm not complaining," Saad said, smiling. At another table, not far from Saad and Naram-Sin's, a man was visibly raising and waving his arms and mouthing along to the lyrics. "Besides Van Hagar isn't as bad as some people say."

At this moment a man came into a view, rapidly approaching Saad and Naram-Sin's table. Unlike the two, he arrived wearing a flat cap and no shades. He had trimmed his greying beard and his hair was tidier than the last time Saad saw him, about a week ago. His face was stony and showed nearly no expression at all. If he was in a good mood or having a bad one he didn't display it to the two men, but obviously he knew why he was called here; there was no other possible explanation. He was the third guest. "Hi there," Saad said, extending his hand to the guest, which he took with gusto though his face remained unchanged. "Come, have a seat. I'll call the waiter."

The guest nodded, and with that Inimabakesh Thulus, assistant manager of the national team, took his seat.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

User avatar
Adab
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:35 am

Chapter 12: The Agreement


Two weeks before the Cup of Harmony starts
Tayip's Diner, Adab City

"Look, as they say, let's just cut to the chase," Inimabakesh Thulus, assistant manager of the Adabian national team, said as he assumed his seat. "You know why you called me here. I know why I'm here."

In front of him, Saad Kaykali and Naram-Sin Araqasdah, President of the Adab Football Association, studied him with dead cold eyes, though tinged with a little sorrow. But this was no time for sorrow and making apologies; this was the time for professionalism. The decision had been taken, and though it was a hard one, they knew they had to follow through with the decision, lest Adabian football once again become the pariah of the world.

Meanwhile, just a few feet away, the footsteps of the waiters delivering food were drowned out by the cheers and applauses directed at the band, which had just concluded their rendition of Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love". "That band is pretty good, I'll give them that," Inimabakesh continued. Saad waved at the nearest waiter, who - apparently having noticed the third guest - was soon rushing to the table with the menu. But Inimabakesh gently pushed the menu away. "I think I'll just have a nice glass of Turkish tea, like these two gentlemen here," he said, smiling at the waiter and softly waving him away with his hand before turning to Saad and Naram-Sin. "Let's get down to business. I know I acted in the heat of the moment. I will not deny it. The sooner we get done with this, the better."

But when exactly did Inimabakesh act in the heat of the moment? You, the reader, might of course remember the recently-concluded World Cup 81 qualifiers, in which the Adabian national team made its comeback after a ten-year suspension. Though they did not qualify, the team performed above and beyond all expectations, placing third in their group behind World Cup giants Starblaydia and Audioslavia. Yet their achievement would, for now at least, be tarred by the assistant manager's actions during their first match against Starblaydia. With Saad unavailable due to "family business," Inimabakesh found himself temporarily assuming the full extent of managerial duties. Helping Saad lead the overachieving, but young and sometimes hotheaded team, was already quite stressful in itself - though they were careful not to show this to the public - and once Inimabakesh found himself guiding the ship alone, the pressure proved too much for him.

Perhaps playing on home soil provided Inimabakesh with the comfort he needed to unleash his words. He criticized the traditional Starblaydi war dance, which they performed before every match, nearly got into a scuffle with the Starblaydi assistant manager, dubbed the Starblaydi players "incompetents," and - after a second-half Starblaydi goal pretty much confirmed their victory over the hosts - finally was expelled to the stands after criticizing the referee as a "sorry blot on the game." His actions became the subject of much controversy in the country; while many supported him and decried the Starblaydis for everything from their attitude to their playing style, many more condemned him as a blot on Adabian football and called for him to be sacked, if not banned from football.

A ban would be particularly painful for Inimabakesh, depriving him of both his job and his main passion. He had been imprisoned for some years as a result of "The Purge" of Adabian football and was going to college for the first time in his life - hoping to get a law degree - and working part-time as a barista when Saad invited him to become assistant manager, an offer which he promptly jumped at, such was his devotion to football. If he were banned, what would he do? Go back to college and that old cafe again?

"I will not pretend that what you did is nothing more than a silly mistake, Ini," Saad said, glancing at the direction of the band as they took requests for their next song. Beside him, Naram-Sin maintained his silence, calmly looking at Inimabakesh. "I've known you for years, many years, and even by your standards this is out of order. I mean, I know you have your... hotheaded moments, but I've never heard you insulting the opposing players, the opposing staff, or even their culture. And the fact that you did it in an international match, at home, in our stadium, it was very embarrassing and it really put a dent on our image. What will people say about us? That we are cheaters, sore losers, bigots? Hell, what are they saying about us now?"

The band hadn't yet played their next song; apparently there was a dispute in the audience over which song they should play next, with two or three songs finding much support in particular, if the constant shouts of their names were anything to go by. "I was only gone for a while, Ini," Saad continued, laying his arm on the table and putting his head on his hand, his voice filling with exasperation. "I was dealing with a bit of family business, my daughter, my relatives, and all that, and suddenly I heard that my assistant manager had pretty much insulted the entirety of the opposing team and their staff and their war dance or whatever and got kicked off to the stands for that. In our own stadium. I don't know if it's better that it happened in our own stadium instead of at the Stadii Di Bradini, but you know as well as everyone else that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and certainly won't go unpunished. You're a smart man and a great man, Ini. I'm sure you know this."

Inimabakesh did not raise a word against his friend, instead nodding slightly, staring at him with a stony face. There was nothing wrong in what Saad had just said, and he knew it. The manager's words had been rising with every word, threatening to ruin whatever privacy was there in their meeting. "You better tone it down a bit, Saad," Naram-Sin said, having noticed it. "You don't want to appear in the papers tomorrow for ranting in a restaurant, do you?"

Saad nodded, then turned to the band, which still hadn't played whatever the audience wanted them to play. A waiter approached their table with Inimabakesh's order, the same one who had delivered the menu only to be gently shooed away. As he laid the glass of Turkish tea before Inimabakesh, Saad leaned over and whispered to him, pointing at the band's direction, "...the hard rocking version, not the bluesier one that they did earlier five or six years before. The hard rocking one, alright? Don't tell them I was the one who requested it, just say that someone wants to hear the song." The waiter dutifully scurried away, and Saad turned once again to the men on his table.

"Let me guess, The Lonely Camels?" Inimabakesh chimed in. The Lonely Camels was an Adabian rock band popular some thirty to forty years ago, and Saad attended their concerts a few times during their heyday.

"Whitesnake, 'Here I Go Again,'" Saad revealed, beaming. "What, I like that song, and they're playing songs from that time, so I figure they probably know the song."

"But I thought you weren't into hair metal."

"Generally, yes, but I've made an exception for this one. David Coverdale is the man."

The waiter had whispered Saad's suggestion to the singer, and thankfully the band was receptive; they knew the song after all. The audience, too, for when the singer finally announced and began playing the song the entire place seemed to erupt in cheers. It was a relief for Saad; the song was loud enough to prevent anyone else in the restaurant from hearing their conversation, and it was also one that he genuinely enjoyed.

"So, about that," he continued, his voice again turning darker. He glanced and nodded at Naram-Sin, who nodded back at him. "Look, Ini, trust me, I don't like doing this. I don't wanna do this. No one likes doing this. We all know that. But you know there are people out there calling for you to be banned from football, saying that you're a disgrace to Adabian football and to football as a whole, that you're a maniac and a madman. So, considering the circumstances, Naram-Sin and I have tried to make this as easy as possible as you, and for all of us. I thought I'd just like to clarify that you are still very much valued around here, and you will still be retained as assistant manager.

"However, you will not travel with us to the Cup of Harmony and you will not participate in the team in any form during this period. You will stay home and any of your suggestions, tactics or team selection or whatever, will not be taken. You will also not be paid during this period. But once the Cup of Harmony is over, you will be allowed to come back as a full, working member of the staff, as long you agree to never, ever repeat what you did with the Starblaydis and offend an opposing team or a member of the public with... offensive words and actions. Should you give us reason to believe that you have violated this agreement, Ini, then I'm sorry, we will have to dispense with your services and shut the door on you. Forever."

Inimabakesh listened to each and every word, not raising any objection along the way. When all was said and done, he simply nodded in understanding. "Thank you," he said, taking a sip from his glass, looking intently at the two men. "I know I can trust you to make a fair decision. I guarantee you that I will not violate the agreement. You have my word on that." He glanced at the band and managed a smile, the first since he entered the place. "Now, they're pretty good, aren't they?"
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:36 am

Chapter 13: A Call


Thirteen years later
Adab City


He turned around on his way out, gazing at the sign posted right above the door. “Saad Kaykali Property and Real Estate”, it read in big, black and golden letters. He had gone quite the long way from that small office that he set up in the corner of his house years ago. The current office was much more spacious and comfy, nestled on the fourth floor of a downtown building in Adab City’s central business district. It was better-equipped to handle the company’s increasing number of employees, and it was closer to the financial heart of the city. He smiled and nodded at the sign, a quiet acknowledgement of how far he had come. His life had been a series of ups and downs, but now – now, at last – it all seemed to be good.

His employees gradually streamed past the opened door. He stepped aside to make way for them, the boss and his men cheerfully acknowledging each other with a grin, accompanied by the nod and wave, and “Good night!” on repeat. He remained there for some time after his last employee had locked the door and gone away, leaning against the wall, his sight shifting between the sign, the door, and the dimmed lights beyond that door.

It took the voice of a security guard to rouse him from his solitude. “Mr. Kaykali, is that you?” said the guard in a wondering voice, making his last round around the hallways before the change in shifts. “You haven’t gone home yet, sir?”

“Not yet, I guess.” He turned towards the guard, managing a faint but sincere smile, strands of his greying hair clashing against the wall. “What, you’re going to banish me from this place?”

“Of course not, sir,” replied the guard, smiling back. The clash of his boots against the floor produced a faint boom-boom echo across the hallway. But he was obviously acutely aware of the other man’s significance; the thump of his boots slowed, and he bowed his head somewhat as he made his way past him. The nearer he was, the smaller their chances at eye contact became. This was not done out of fear, but merely a sign of overwhelming respect.

“This is a good night,” the older man suddenly rattled out. “Good night.”

“It is, sir,” said the guard, glancing back at the man. “Good night, sir.” The sound of his boots was receding into the air, and then he turned left and disappeared, once again leaving the older man alone.

That security guard was only one of millions holding Saad Kaykali in high esteem. More often than not, it was not because of his career in real estate investing or his establishment of a fast-growing property company. As for Saad himself, he had long put that chapter of his life behind him, and he preferred it that way.

After deciding that the solitude had satisfied him enough, he made his way towards the elevator. Dressed smartly in a business suit and dark-blue tie, wearing jet-black loafers, carrying a laptop bag, he looked every bit the CEO of a property company. He brought with him an air of serene self-confidence, a kind disposition and willingness to listen to others combined with the ability to assert his authority and make the big decisions when needed. These qualities had served him well in his current career, and indeed in his previous one.


He encountered no one on his journey to the elevator, nor in the elevator itself. Everyone, it seemed, had gone home or to the nearby bars or cafes. Though the elevator itself still worked well, the lights had begun to fade, and lately there had been several complaints about elevators across the building being much slower and, in one case, just coming to a halt between floors. Whistling the melody of an Adabian folk tune, Saad made a mental note to himself to fund the purchase of new elevators when the time came.

The next person he encountered was one of the receptionists, a kind young lady who often seemed overworked. Saad and the receptionists had been greeting each other every morning and night for a few years now. Saad would sometimes make small talk, and some sort of affinity had developed between them.

The other receptionists had left their post, and by the looks of it she would be following them soon. She was already putting some papers and the phone charger into her bag. “Mr. Kaykali,” she rose to her feet as the building’s esteemed tenant went past her.

“Hello there,” Saad greeted her back, nodding. “You haven’t gone home yet?”

“I’m about to, sir,” she responded, smiling a somewhat panicked smile, her eyes shifting quickly between the older man and her bag, her hair rather undone and strands of it blown by the wind. “I- I’m sorry, sir, I was… putting my things into my bag.” A moment of silence followed. “Well, actually, uh, my boyfriend is picking me up, uh…”

“Well that sounds nice!” Saad smiled, though that was quickly replaced by a look of concern. “You alright? You don’t seem too happy about it.”

“Well, actually, sir, uh,” she smiled again, clearly struggling to get the right words out, “well actually we broke up two months ago, and we got back together a week ago. I mean I’m excited, but I just hope that everything goes well this time. I would hate for things to go wrong yet again.”

“I understand that feeling.” Saad nodded. As he was about to resume speaking, the sound of his words was suddenly drowned by the familiar roar of an engine, stopping right outside the main doors of the building. He turned around to behold a yellow Pontiac Firebird and a tall, lanky man stepping out of it. Dang, she got herself a rich guy. The receptionist plodded past Saad as if the next step would be her last, beaming at her man, nervous but excited nonetheless. The guy, too, couldn’t take his eyes off her as he ascended the steps towards the doors. Well, until he saw the man standing beside and a bit to the back of his girl.

He stopped in his tracks, and his eyes shifted away from her to that man. She stopped, too, at first not understanding why he was no longer looking at her, but then turning at the same direction. The young couple was now both staring at the older man. The guy stood there still, mouth agape. “Oh my God, Mr. Kaykali, is that you?!”

Saad’s eyes narrowed. “Do I recognize you, young man?”

The guy started walking again, but now at Saad’s direction. Every word he said was increasingly tinged with excitement. “Sir, oh my God, I don’t know what to say… sir, my God, I’ve always wanted to meet you. You are one of our country’s greatest legends. My girlfriend told me you work here, but I’ve never seen you. Until now.”

Saad tried to smile, though it came out a bit forced. “Well, thank you. Uh, I’m not really that great, to be honest with you. My players are greater than me. I just tried to guide them.”

“No, sir, no, you’re the greatest too,” said the younger guy, now only a foot away from Saad. He extended his hand, which Saad took. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir. And on this night of all nights!”

“Why this night? What’s special about this night?”

“Well, I mean they just announced that we’re returning to international football. I just heard it on my radio on the way here! And of course everyone wants you to come back, sir.”

“Wait, what?”

“You haven’t heard, sir? Well they just announced it, actually, like a few minutes ago when I was on my way here. Oh my God, it’s exciting, sir, and I don’t know if you want to return or not, but speaking as a fan of the national team, please do come back. I think everyone wants you to come back!”

“Well, uh, that’s interesting,” Saad’s voice began to slow, “but I think there are… many younger managers and… coaches, who are more than willing and able and suitable to take the team forward. And, uh, I’m kinda old anyway, and-“

At this point his phone began to ring. Saad reached down to his pocket, wondering if this call was also related to this news that he had just heard. There was no name on the phone, only numbers; whoever was calling was not on his contact list. Before he could get a single word out, he was greeted by a familiar voice. “Saad, is that you?”

He recognized that voice straight away. They had not spoken for quite a long time, but that voice he still remembered. Meanwhile the young couple watched him as he took the call. “Naram-Sin?”

“Oh alhamdulillah it’s you! Look, I’m sorry for annoying you at this kinda late hour, I know you’re probably confused, so my old phone is dying and I just bought a new phone and I haven’t entered your name yet into my contacts. Now I just want to call you and I couldn’t be bothered to enter your name hahahaha.” He broke into a little laughter, which Saad responded to with a solemn silence.

“Well, uh, it’s nice to talk to you again, Naram-Sin,” said Saad after Naram-Sin’s laughter had subsided. “Is there anything that I can do for you?”

“Well, are you busy right now?”

“Not really. I’m done for the night. I’m just gonna go home after this.”

“Do you mind if I pay you a visit tonight? You still live at that old house, right?”

Saad’s heart stopped, and his face darkened. He instantly knew what Naram-Sin wanted to talk about. He wanted to turn him down at this very moment, but this was an old friend that he hadn’t seen and spoken to for some time, and he did want to see him again. With some reluctance, he came to his decision. “Well, yeah, sure, just come on over. I’ll have my housekeeper make some tea for you, if you want it. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes, I guess, or an hour max.”

“Thank you, man. You’re too good to me.” The laughter had gone away from Naram-Sin’s voice, and Saad thought he could pick up a bit of sadness in that voice. But then that voice brightened once again. “Well, see you there, Saad!” Then the line went dark.

The young couple was still there, watching what they knew at that moment to be a fateful phone call. “Well, people,” Saad turned to them, sighing, “don’t get your hopes too high yet.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:37 am

Chapter 14: The Offer


Adab City

Now that Saad had time to think about it, it was actually pretty nice of Naram-Sin to remember that he now lived in Adab City. As much as they had drifted away from each other over the last several years, Naram-Sin at least knew where he lived, instead of embarrassing himself by asking if he could come over to Baghdad, to that house that he had shared with his beloved wife, a reminder of a life now long gone.

After Maria died, Saad and their daughter Aida remained in the Baghdad house for some time, accompanied by Saad’s small crew of housekeepers and Walid the old gardener. This lasted until Saad took up the post of manager of the Adabian national team ahead of Independents Cup 5, upon which he bought a slightly smaller house in Adab City and moved his entire household there. To avoid paying for maintenance, Saad transferred ownership of the Baghdad house to Maria’s sister, with the understanding that he could return there whenever he wanted to. The publicly-stated reason was that he wanted to live closer to the team. This explanation was true, but also ignored another aspect behind the move: the memories of Maria and the life they once had in Baghdad had grown all too painful for him, and he resolved to put those memories behind.

When, during the financial crisis, the government decided to stop sending the national team to foreign competitions, leading Saad to quit his job, he considered selling his house in Adab City and returning to Baghdad, reasoning that he now had nothing to do in the capital. This he did not do, the unstated reasoning – of course – being that he did not want to be haunted by those memories again. Maria’s sister retained ownership of the Baghdad house, sometimes renting the rooms to university students, but never actually living there herself. Its past owner, despite his stated desire to return sometime in the future, ended up never doing that.

But a Kaykali was soon to return to that house. Aida grew up, graduated from university, became a lawyer, and was assigned to her law firm’s office in Baghdad. With Saad’s financial situation now much more secure due to his real estate investments, he persuaded Maria’s sister to give the house back to him, intending, in turn, to give it to Aida once she had enough money to pay for the upkeep. This he did a few years later.

And that brought us to the present day. Father and daughter now lived in different cities. With both of them immersed in their respective jobs, their meetings became increasingly rare, though they still kept in touch by phone. Saad had his housekeepers for company, and Walid the old gardener, although he had not been in good health lately. His driver Salim would come in from Monday to Friday, and on weekends if Saad needed him. But the lack of family did leave him feeling lonesome at times.

The car rolled onto the narrow road leading to the house, heralded by the sounds of its tires clashing against some mud on the road. It was a decidedly middle-class neighborhood; anyone looking at the row of almost identical-looking houses – most of them having two floors, though a few others had three – without knowing who lived there would never guess that one of the residents was the CEO of a property company and previously manager of the Adabian national football team.

The car came to a momentary halt right outside the only green fence in that row. An old man slowly pushed the fence aside, allowing the car access to the garage. “Thank you, Salim,” said Saad from his front seat, tapping his driver on the shoulder as he opened the door with his other hand and slowly pushed his legs down to the ground. The old man walked towards him.

“Walid-“

“Mr. Kaykali, Mr. Araqasdah came here about… fifteen minutes ago. I let him inside. He said he wants to meet you.”

“Yeah, he called me earlier. I told him to come over. I told Mat to prepare some tea for him.” Saad now started towards the front door and into the living room. Walid opened the door for his boss, then closed it behind him. “I hope he did remember to prepare the tea,” he added with a chuckle.

The living room was sparsely decorated, the main attraction being a brown sofa directly facing the TV, with a red-brown Anatolian rug covering the floor between. A small round table sat on the carpet, not very far from the sofa. On one corner of the room, right below the clock, there was a mahogany chair, facing another, smaller square table with a cup of tea on it. And tonight, on that chair sat a visitor: Naram-Sin Araqasdah, President of the Adab Football Association.

Saad nodded, more to himself than to anyone else, then greeted his visitor, his voice a mixture of weariness and pleasure at once again seeing an old friend. “Naram-Sin,” he said simply, flashing a small smile. The visitor, who had hitherto been staring down at his phone, slowly raised his head, then lifted himself from the chair, his eyes now level with Saad’s.

“Saad,” the visitor said, beaming. The host and his visitor now moved towards each other, until they were barely a foot apart. Naram-Sin put his hands on Saad’s shoulders, and pulled him into a hug. “How long have we not seen each other?”

“I don’t know,” Saad replied, putting his own arms around Naram-Sin’s shoulders and sinking into the hug. “A few years?”

“It’s been too long,” said Naram-Sin. He looked older – well, he obviously was older now, but he looked much older – and walked more slowly than when Saad last saw him. His hair had gone entirely white. Saad was obviously pleased to once again see him. For now, for a few minutes, he would let that feeling of pleasure overcome any misgivings he had over Naram-Sin’s intentions.

Naram-Sin released Saad from their hug, then retreated back to the chair, while Saad setttled down onto the sofa. He glanced briefly at the front door, making sure it was closed. “You know,” Saad continued, laying his hands on the table, looking at Naram-Sin, “how come we didn’t talk more often?”

Naram-Sin chuckled. “I don’t know, Saad. You’ll have to tell me. Actually, yeah, I don’t know why either. I still have your number on my phone.”

“I have your number, too. I mean, we do chat occasionally on WhatsApp. So… I guess it’s not a complete estrangement.”

“True, true. How come neither of us bothered to call the other, though?”

“I don’t know. I guess we just have our own priorities at the moment,” said Saad, his smile growing somewhat wider. He pointed at the cup of tea. “Have you tried it? My housekeepers make good tea. They do it even better than I do.”

“Yeah, I like it. It’s just the right amount of hot. Not too hard on my tongue, but I can still feel the heat.” Naram-Sin looked down again at his phone for a moment, then back up at Saad. “Do you still talk to Inimabakesh?”

Saad sighed, turning his gaze away from Naram-Sin to somewhere between the floor and the TV. “Sometimes, but not as often as we used to. Why do you ask me that? Do you not speak to him yourself?”

“I haven’t spoken to him in… a while.” Saad saw Naram-Sin appearing to nod, certainly not to him, maybe trying to reassure himself that he had, indeed, not spoken to Inimabakesh in a while. We really all have drifted away from each other. “You know he’s a grandfather now, right?”

“Yeah.”

If Saad thought that Naram-Sin didn’t really want to talk about this, then he had a point, as Naram-Sin appeared immediately to shift the subject of the conversation. That did make the conversation a little more comfortable for Saad. “How’s Aida? She’s still in Baghdad?”

“She still is,” Saad beamed, “busy being a lawyer and all that.”

“Yeah, being a lawyer can be rather time-consuming. Do you still visit Baghdad often?”

“No, not really. There’s nothing for me there. Besides, my daughter is living her life there and I don’t want to go there and make her feel like I’m interfering.”

“Where does your daughter work again?”

“Mashda and Partners. Khalid and Eliyahu used to work there, if you remember, before they started their own office.”

“Your lawyers? Yeah, I think I remember them. Good chaps.”

“And reliable. The best in the business.” Saad’s hands retreated from the table and onto his thighs. He leaned back on the sofa, tightening his lips, lowering his gaze somewhat before turning to Naram-Sin. “Look at us, Naram-Sin. We’ve all grown old. My daughter is an adult now. A lawyer! How time flies.”

“I know that feeling,” Naram-Sin sighed. “You know, Saad, you’ve surely heard the good news now…”

Oh Allah, here we go. Saad tightened his lips even more, though he made sure to lower his head so as not to be noticed by Naram-Sin. Naram-Sin’s words about Adab getting back into international football went by like a blur, and so did his comments about how the Adabian team could prepare for the World Cup by first entering the Independents Cup, just as they had done all those years ago.

“It’s great news,” Saad commented. “I’m excited to see how the team will do, especially after, what? Thirteen, fourteen years?” He let out a little chuckle.

“And that is why I’m here,” said Naram-Sin, solemnly leaning forward on his chair towards Saad.

There was a moment of silence where both men looked at each other. Not a word was said, but they both knew what was in store. Eventually, it was Naram-Sin who broke the silence. “You know very well that no one else in this country is more respected, experienced, knowledgeable, and well-equipped for this job. And everyone in this country knows that. Saad, I need you to come back as manager of the Adabian national team.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

User avatar
Adab
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:38 am

Chapter 15: This Contract of Ours


Saad knew it was coming. He knew it was the whole point of the visit, and he knew he had to give his answer to the offer. There was no joy, no excitement, only a feeling of irritation that he had been asked to return to where he did not want to come back to. He understood why Naram-Sin, and indeed so many others in the country, put their trust in him. But it was a part of his life that he did not want to go back to.

He did not give an immediate answer. Wordlessly he rose to his feet, bowing his head somewhat, closing his eyes, and frowning. He did not even look at Naram-Sin. At this point it must have dawned on Naram-Sin that it was not going to be as easy as he thought. He, too, rose from his seat, but did not move closer to Saad. Instead the two men stayed still in their respective positions, a poignant moment of silence enveloping them.

“You know,” Saad broke the silence, opening his eyes but still not looking at Naram-Sin, “I really appreciate your offer, Naram-Sin. I really do.”

Naram-Sin nodded, weakly. “I sense a ‘but’ in your answer.”

Saad raised his chin, his eyebrows furrowed, his sight fixed on the wall in front of him. “There was a time, Naram-Sin,” he continued, rather slowly, “that football formed a major part of my life and I couldn’t live without it. It was the only thing that my life revolved around. But we all have changed, Naram-Sin. Too many years have passed. We’ve changed, the world’s changed, even football’s changed.”

Naram-Sin solemnly, gradually stepped forward. “What do you mean?”

Saad turned his head ever so slightly at Naram-Sin. He launched his right foot towards the visitor, then the left one. “Thirteen years ago,” he continued, his voice growing low, “we could’ve had it all. We had a young, fresh squad. We had done well in the Independents Cup and the World Cup qualifiers. We could have done much more. We could have become much more.”

“Saad, no,” Naram-Sin sighed, shaking his head. “We couldn’t have done things any differently, and you know it. It’s an economic crisis. The government had to shift money to other projects. You know it’s the Imperial Palace’s decision. We just weren’t that much of a priority-“

WE COULD HAVE!” With one quick movement Saad grabbed Naram-Sin by his collar, pulling him so close that their foreheads almost clashed. His face was a terrible frown. His breath barely managed to come of his gritted teeth. “We could have! We could have improved on our performance! We could have kept on competing! We could have become a regional powerhouse, maybe even a multiversal giant of football!”

“Saad, please.” Naram-Sin could barely get his words out. Saad’s grip on his collar grew even tighter. “It’s not my decision. It’s what the Imperial Palace-“

“Look me in the eye, old man. LOOK ME IN THE EYE!” Saad barked. “Thirteen years and you still don’t understand. You all people just rolled over and obeyed their insane orders when they destroyed the national team, destroyed our chances at becoming a respected football power. You have no grit, no passion, no nothing, not even a love for the game that you claim you have.”

“It’s the Imperial Palace, Saad. We can’t just oppose-“

You can! For God’s sake, Naram-Sin, you and I are citizens of this country. Those people have an obligation to listen to us! Instead you did nothing as they destroyed one of the few things that could be our national pride in our darkest time. If they couldn’t give a damn about arts and culture and sports, well it’s their loss. But it didn’t have to be like this!”

Saad released Naram-Sin’s collar in an equally quick movement, so sudden and powerful that it sent Naram-Sin stumbling a step or two backwards. “Saad,” he said quietly, obviously still stunned and bewildered at what his old friend had just done to him, “this is a new chance. We can do this. We… we can rise from the ashes.”

“The ashes from the building you burned down.” Saad began to calm down, and his voice grew softer, but his burning eyes were wide open still, staring at Naram-Sin. “Why me, Naram-Sin? Why not someone else who is younger and more in touch with the latest developments? You know I haven’t managed a team in more than a decade.”

“Because you’re our hero, and you’re the symbol of our past glory,” Naram-Sin explained. “We… want a more diverse team this time. Men, women, maybe all the major religious faiths, someone from Faraby, all kinds of people. Veterans from your time, the current stars in the league. No other manager commands the amount of respect that you have. No one can unite the team like you.”

Saad simply nodded. And for the next minute, neither man spoke, each lowering their heads. Saad closed his eyes.

After a while, he broke the silence. “What do you expect from this team?"

“We just want to do our best in the Independents Cup. Prepare for the World Cup.”

“What exactly is ‘best’? Round of 16?”

“No, not necessarily. Just… do our best. As long as they get playing time and can prepare for the World Cup.”

Saad nodded again. “What are you going to offer me in your contract? Two years? Until the end of the World Cup?”

“A four-year contract, in fact,” Naram-Sin said. His own eyes grew wide as the realization dawned on him. Maybe there’s a chance after all.

Saad raised his head, looking straight at Naram-Sin. “I want a one-match contract.”

One match?” Naram-Sin looked up at Saad, taken aback.

“Yes,” Saad affirmed. “After every match that we play, be it friendly or competitive, I want to have the option of either renewing my contract for the next match or letting it expire. No, I don’t want any money. I’ve had enough from my real estate company anyway.”

“Oh, uh, sure, if that’s what you want. We can arrange it. Are you sure you don’t want a longer contract?”

“Look, I’ve got a good thing going with my real estate company. One-match contract. Take it or leave it.”

“Uh, sure, alright then.”

“Also, you said that you want veterans from my time in the team. I want Marramzi, Yargab, Orlev, and Frangieh.”

“Sure, sure.” Naram-Sin nodded in rapid succession, noting Saad’s demands in his mind.

“Good,” Saad said. His hands reached down and sank into his trouser pockets. His eyes were on Naram-Sin. “You ever watched The Godfather Part III? There’s a scene where Michael Corleone is sitting down with his people, and he says, ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:40 am

Chapter 16: Bloodline, Part 1


Adab Airlines Flight 21, flying from Adab City to Faraby City

Assistant manager of the Adab national football team. Most people would regard it as the peak of their footballing career.

For Rashid Abbas, it was a cause for confusion.

Normally, one would not question the appointment of perhaps the greatest football star to come out of the island of Faraby to that post. It seemed only fitting that such a great player would be destined for a future in management. People like Brian Clough, Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, even Adab’s own Saad Kaykali, they were all great players turned managers. Rashid had shown a talent for leading and inspiring his teammates. Surely he could help Saad do the same to the players they were now to lead.

Instead, he spent much of the flight brooding over whether he had truly earned that post or if his appointment – if the rumors were to be believed – had merely been a favor from the Adab Football Association to its Farabian counterpart to ensure the associated state’s willingness to declare its players for the parent country’s national team.

The World Cup was fast approaching, and the squad was currently competing in The National tournament in Xanneria. Saad had persuaded AFA President Naram-Sin Araqasdah the team into the tournament at almost the last minute, wanting to give the squad more opportunities to warm up as well as see if they were working together well. In a sign of just how much he trusted his assistants, Saad had not bothered to consult either of his assistant managers, Rashid and Inimabakesh Thulus.

Inimabakesh accompanied Saad and the squad to Xanneria. Not Rashid, though. He had asked – and received Saad and the AFA’s permission – to skip this tournament. He had family matters to attend to.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the captain’s rugged voice boomed across the cabin, “we will be landing shortly at Prince Suleyman Faraby International Airport. The local time is 9:37 a.m. and the weather is clear and sunny. Please return to your seats, set your seats to the upright position, fasten your seatbelts, and return your tray tables to the closed position. We would like to thank you for flying with Adab Airlines, the best airline in the country. Welcome to Faraby.”

The landing was quick and smooth, and soon Rashid found himself strolling across the terminal, luggage in hand, cutting a somewhat lonely figure rushing through the crowd and the hoopla. Some turned their heads, appearing to have an inkling on who this figure was and where they had seen him before, but amid all the rush nobody bothered him. It helped that he kept his gaze halfway down for much of the time.

He waved at the first taxi he saw, barging in with his luggage as soon as the previous passengers were out. In his hurry he didn’t even bother to put his luggage in the trunk. The driver glanced upwards at the rear-view mirror, seemingly bent on asking where his new passenger would like to go, but the visage of the passenger stopped him. “Mr- Mr… Abbas? Are you really Rashid Abbas?”

The passenger nodded in affirmation and smiled. “I am.”

“Oh my God, I-“

“Hey, it’s fine. I’m just an ordinary guy, really. Nothing to get all excited about. Take me to the condo at 25 Prince Mustafa Boulevard, please.” He paused and sighed, then added, “It’s been a while since I was last there.”

The passenger remained mostly silent as the car made its way out of the airport, through the highway, and into the crowded center of Faraby City, though the chatty driver did manage to get some comments out from him about what he was doing now and what he wanted to do. His pensive gaze was directed outwards, as the wide open fields that lined the highways faded into a maze of cramped apartments, condominiums, skyscrapers, and offices and the three-lane highway became a narrow stretch of asphalt, choked from end to end in both directions by barely moving cars, the sidewalks filled with pedestrians and street vendors, their loud calls for buyers penetrating the window and into the taxi. At some points along the street the morning grew dark as the buildings blocked the sun.

“Traffic is still bad, eh?” Rashid observed.

“It still is, Mr. Abbas. This place is too crowded. Too many cars.”

It was only towards the end of the journey that the roads seemed to widen once again, as the car took several turns away from the arterials and into a calmer, quieter neighborhood. The way onto the condo building itself was blocked by a tall black fence. Two guards stood watch, and one of them rushed over to the driver’s side of the car as it rolled onto the condo.

“Name and purpose of visit, please,” demanded the guard as the driver rolled his window down. Before the driver was able to say anything, a voice came from the back.

“Rashid Abbas,” he announced calmly. “I’m here to see my sister and my father.”

The guard’s eyes widened as he leaned in and turned his neck to the back seat. “My God, M-Mr. Abbas? Oh, of course, sir.” He signaled to the other guard to open the fence, which he promptly did, and they saluted the taxi as it made its way in.

The car stopped just outside the lobby. Rashid thanked the driver and gave him a generous amount of money, quite above the fare. He ascended the marble steps leading to the lobby, hesitating at the door, before going on in anyway. The lobby was relatively empty – it was a Sunday morning, after all – and Rashid headed for the nearest elevator, exchanging only a respectful nod along the way with a janitor who he was not sure had recognized him.

The descent to Basement 4 felt as if it took a lifetime. Alone in the box, he leaned back against the wall, holding on to his luggage, gazing upwards and wondering how his father was doing, or if he would even know him. He realized that he didn’t know if he had anything to say, but he knew he wanted to say something. As the elevator doors parted, his steps grew heavy, weighed down by thoughts if there was any benefit in doing this.

But he walked on nevertheless, making his way through narrow corridors, and now he stood outside the door of his father’s condo. His fingers touched the door, but too softly to make any sound. He bowed his head, then brought his fingers against the door with more force to produce a knock.

The door creaked open to reveal a woman in white – one of his father’s nurses. “Oh, Mr. Abbas, come in,” she said, ushering the visitor inside. “Your sister is outside but she’ll come back soon.”

“Thank you,” Rashid said. “How is my father doing?”

“He’s doing well,” the nurse replied, trying to assure him, but Rashid could detect some hesitancy in her soft voice.

He put aside his luggage against the wall and she pointed at the man Rashid had come to see. At one corner of the condo he sat, stiffly straight and not leaning back on the sofa. He was gazing at the wall, but the sound of footsteps seemed to have caught his attention and he turned to the source of the sound. Rashid could see his eyes through strands of his white hair, empty as they were.

They stared at each other. Rashid did not know if he recognized him. The old man’s face was as empty as his wide-open eyes, and not a word came from his mouth. But, as Rashid nodded in quiet understanding, his dry lips slowly began to grow longer, forming a smile. A faint smile, but a smile nevertheless.

And Rashid smiled back.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:40 am

Chapter 17: Bloodline, Part 2


There was still a trace of him in him, at least. Rashid nodded again, confirming this to himself.

The old man stayed still, staring at Rashid, his smile unchanging. God, no, has he forgotten how to change his expression? Cautiously Rashid brought himself closer, one small step after another, unsure if the man had become frozen or something.

But the old man reciprocated his gesture, if painfully slowly. His left hand grasped the arm of the sofa, the right hand weakly flailing at thin air with nothing to hold on to. He rose, shaking a little at his knees. The nurse launched herself forward, fearing that he would fall. But he stood. And, gradually, he walked. And he extended his hand at Rashid.

Rashid took it. He clenched his lips tight, but still smiling, and he looked into the man’s eyes. In this position they stayed, until Rashid realized that the old man was not going to offer him a hug, or that he was going to do anything else. “Dad,” he said softly.

Then he released his hand from his father’s grasp. He opened his arms, and launched them around his father’s back, pulling him in. The great Alulim Abbas shouldn’t have to spend his old age like this. “Dad,” Rashid’s voice grew softer, “how are you?”

“Who is that?” his father meekly replied, pointing somewhere to Rashid’s left.

Rashid turned towards where his father had pointed. “What? Dad, that’s- oh…” He trailed off, noticing the nurse.

The nurse seemed to understand what was on Rashid’s mind. “It’s fine. He.. often forgets,” she said to Rashid, her voice tinged with a resigned tone, before turning to Alulim. “I’m Sabiha, Mr. Abbas. I’m your nurse.”

“Oh,” Alulim nodded, slowly backing away from his son and offering his hand to the nurse. “It’s good to see you.”

The old man then withdrew back to the sofa, and Rashid joined him on the one wooden chair that had been set up next to the sofa. “Do you remember who I am, dad?” he said, instantly regretting it. That maybe could’ve used a bit of rewording.

But if Alulim was concerned about the wording, he did not show it, or perhaps he was not capable to. He just nodded and kept smiling. “Rashid,” came the simple, almost monotonic answer. He would not carry the conversation.

Nevertheless Rashid breathed out in relief. He still knew his son. “How are you, dad?”

“I’m fine. Do you know…” He never continued the sentence. He did not seem to remember that he had said that sentence.

“It’s good to know that,” Rashid said, beaming if rather resigned. “It’s good to know that.” What even was there to know?

At this point, Rashid noticed Sabiha the nurse still standing, facing him. He motioned for her to sit on the sofa, next to his sofa, but as she advanced towards the sofa she was stopped on her tracks by a knock on the door. She promptly turned around and rushed to open the door.

A split second later Rashid realized who was coming. As had become a habit for him, he nodded to himself in understanding, then rose to his feet. His father remained on the sofa, his head turned slightly towards the door, but otherwise he remained unmoving. Solemn, even.

The door opened, the sound of its creaking open soon drowned by those of chatter and shoes clashing against the floor and grocery bags being put on the table. The first person to emerge was another nurse who had just put those bags, not the one Rashid was expecting. She chatted a little bit with Sabiha before they both disappeared behind the thin wall that separated the living room from the narrow corridor with the table and leading to the door, maybe to tend to the contents of those bags.

The next person Rashid had certainly expected. If his father was the first reason he came here, then she was the second one. She moved towards the living room just as the nurses went the opposite way. Rashid realized that the chatter had died down; maybe Sabiha had told her of the guest, and that was bound to elicit a solemn silence from her. They knew each other, but they hadn’t met for a while. Every encounter now seemed increasingly rare.

Now she walked onto the living room. Rashid was on his feet, his father sitting next to him. The woman turned to face the visitor. Nothing was said, and for a full thirty seconds all Rashid and the woman did was stare at each other.

Eventually it was the woman who broke the ice, breaking into a faint, little smile for the first time since she entered the room. “Hey, bro.”

“Hey, Kara.”


They walked down the lobby and past the door, nodding politely at a security guard along the way. They stopped just before the marble steps leading down to the road. Kara leaned on the nearest pillar, facing outwards to the small trees lining up along the way. Rashid was two or three feet away, facing her.

“Well, how can I expect anything else from you, bro?” Kara said, grinning. “Disappearing and reappearing is pretty much your gig.”

“Oh come on, don’t be like that,” Rashid replied, finding that he couldn’t help but laugh a little. He launched a hand towards Kara, tapping her on the shoulder. His voice grew tender. “You know I have no plans to disappear again this time. I got called by the high and mighty Adab Football Association. I had some business to take care of.”

“You’ve only been back here for, what? A few weeks?” Kara rolled her eyes and glanced upwards, sniggering. “Then you had to disappear to Adab City for another few weeks, hunkering down at some dank meeting place with some football figures and the great high almighty Saad Kaykali. I don’t call that not planning to disappear.”

Rashid smiled, withdrawing his hand from Kara’s shoulder. Her little sister hadn’t changed much. “I mean we literally chat on the phone, but whatever makes you happy sis.”

“You disappeared for years, silly. Chatting on the phone doesn’t even start to make up for all the lost years.”

Rashid nodded and looked down, then slowly up again. On this his sister had a point. “Well,” Kara continued, wiping something – dust, maybe – from under her eyelids, “at least you’re not on witness protection or a secret mission or whatever you said the government made you do. It’s nice to see you again, bro. It really is.”

“And it’s nice to see you again,” Rashid said, beaming. “My little sister is now head of Faraby’s delegation to WorldVision and the World Hit Festival. She’s going places!”

“Why do I sense like you’re mocking me there,” Kara laughed.

“I’m not, silly,” Rashid laughed back, and then looked down and up again, taking a breath. “Hey, how is Dad doing now?”

Kara knew at this point the conversation had turned serious. She sighed deeply, putting her lips tightly together and somewhat looking down from her brother’s gaze. “He’s doing well for someone at his stage,” she began, clearly choosing her words carefully. “He still walks, still talks a little bit… but he’s forgetting more and more people. I know I’ve said this, but I’m sorry you didn’t get to see him when you first returned, but… he was going through a rough patch at the time-“

“Hey, it’s alright,” Rashid said, putting both his hands on his sister’s shoulders, his voice fraught with affection. “Look at me, sis. It’s gonna be alright, sis. It’s gonna be alright.”

“For us, maybe,” Kara said, slowly looking up at her brother, tears welling up, “but not for Dad. He’s never gonna be alright again. With each passing day, with each passing week and month and year, parts of him are gonna be lost for good.” Each passing word seemed to come at a faster pace. “In the end, he’s gonna be confined to bed, not being able to walk, talk, or do anything, not even know his own name. He’ll be gone long before he’s gone.”

Rashid slowly pulled Kara closer to him, occasionally glancing to his left and behind to make sure they were not within the sight of others in the vicinity, listening as the tears began to stream down her eyes. “Sis, we need to find him a unit that is actually above ground. He needs to be able to look at a window, look outside, and not just endless expanses of wall.”

“I tried a while ago, but all the units here are full.” She sniffed, trying to hold the tears back. “Bro, do you really have to accept that job? I don’t want you to go away again.”

“I have to,” Rashid sighed. “This whole goddamn island is counting on me. I’m the representative of this island in Adabian football or something. I need to carry the banner of our island.” He was silent for a while, then continued. “Look, sis, this time, when I’m away you’ll know exactly where I am in this world. And I’m gonna go back here whenever I’ve got the chance. This is my home and you know it, sis.”

Through her tears Kara nodded, and then she put her arms around her brother, holding him tight.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:41 am

Chapter 18: Em


May 1, 2033
Following the match against Eastfield Lodge


Alulim Sinmuballit sat on the edge of his bed. The lights shone brightly wherever he looked – on the ceiling above and the tables beside him. The night was growing old, the arms of the clock signaling that it was 11:49 p.m. Though his eyes were red and his bones ached he found that he couldn’t get himself to sleep. The TV was off, and the sound of silence was his only friend.

The match against Eastfield Lodge had been a hard one, and though no one with a brain expected Adab to win, at least he could rest assured that he and his teammates had done their best. Mr. Kaykali and The Captain always hammered home to the team that the most important thing was for them to gain experience, to go out there and perform their best. Winning was the objective, yes, but if the team had to lose, then at least make sure to have the dignity of losing after doing their best. Losing after giving all they had was admirable; losing by doing nothing – or after a halfhearted effort – was intolerable at best, unforgivable at worst. The people would love to see them win, but they weren’t also so brainless so as to expect the team to suddenly win the World Cup.

The night was running late, and tomorrow morning the team would fly to Atheara for their next match in the World Cup qualifiers. What a circus. Play today, fly tomorrow, play the next day. Rinse and repeat and so on until time and space meant nothing more than a blur. All for the glory of the country and Adabian football.

His mind kept on replaying all the things that he didn’t do, and all the things that he should have done. The moments where he just missed the ball, or where he had it wrested away from him, or when he should have been just one second quicker. It’s bad enough that people were dubbing him a “prodigy” or something when the truth was that he was just another football player - well, granted, not too many 19-year-olds had been dubbed a future star player for club and country – now the multiverse had their eyes on every one of his moves, his mistakes, his near-misses.

He knew he had to throw those thoughts away, and he knew he had to go to sleep, get some rest. The first thing he found hard to do, and the second he absolutely couldn’t do. But he knew how to fix the first one.

The phone lay beside him on the bedding; for almost a minute he debated with himself on whether to pick it up or not. Would she still answer at this hour? Had she gone to sleep? Should he even be doing this? But if you never try, you’ll never know.

Emma Arthur – but to him, she’s just Em, or Ems – was one of his closest friends, maybe even the closest. Fate had brought them together in Adab United, bound by the unenviable tie of being called a prodigy at such a young age (he was 19, she 20). In a top-tier club where much was expected from their players, even more was expected from him and Emma. And amid all this, he and Emma somehow bonded. They couldn’t be more different from each other; he was calmer and methodical, whereas she was more excitable and cheerful and could benefit from shutting her mouth every once in a while. But they both had a natural inclination for kindness and empathy, and – as Emma once pointed out – perhaps because they were two of a kind, they felt this natural need to protect each other from all the pressure and media exposure. Well, she wasn’t wrong. Oh, and she’s pretty, too. Like, extremely so, though it’s not like he cared about it.

He picked up the phone and sifted through the list of contacts, clicking on her name with a sense of wariness. Then he waited.

“Oh, hey Alu,” came the somewhat sleepy voice. “You’re still awake?”

Hearing that wonderful voice was enough to put a smile, subconsciously, on him. “Hey Em- Oh, sorry, are you about to sleep? I-“

“Hey, hey, it’s fine, silly. Why are you calling me anyway?” she said. He thought he could hear a giggle on the other end.

“Uh, dunno, really…” he trailed off, wondering again why he was doing this. “I just wanna talk, I guess.”

She giggled again. That’s what she always did to him. “Well, I’m all ears.”


Saad Kaykali was not disappointed with the match result. He knew his players had done their best. Against a vastly more superior and experienced team such as Eastfield Lodge, 3-1 wasn’t bad at all. They still had more matches to look forward to.

But before he went to sleep for the night, there was one thing that he needed to address. The Adab Football Association had been pestered by local media over this matter. The AFA had put out a statement denying it, and now AFA President Naram-Sin Araqasdah wanted Saad to address this, too, if only to drive the point home.

Saad thought this matter trivial and unnecessary to address, and he sure wasn’t going to do the talking. He had other things to attend to: team tactics, training, formation, things that actually mattered.

He would delegate this to The Captain. He picked up the hotel telephone and placed a call to The Captain’s room. (Saad’s phone had run out of power and he hadn’t bothered to charge it.)

“Hey Mohammed, sorry to disturb you at this hour,” he instructed The Captain. “Look, can you do me a favor here? Tomorrow, tell your God-knows-how-many-million social media followers that we are not involved in this whole pepperoni thing-

“You mean Ripperonin boss?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever they’re calling that thing. We don’t take this Ripperonin thing, we don’t take any drugs at all, we will gladly submit ourselves to every kind of drug test known to mankind, and I will not be taking any questions regarding Ripperonin in all future press conferences.”

“Sure, boss, I’ll post it tomorrow morning,” answered Mohammed Marramzi.
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:42 am

Chapter 19: Eni


Enlilbani Yargab’s house, Baghdad
Before the start of the World Cup 88 qualifiers


Holding a book between his arm and ribs, Enlilbani Yargab opened the door to the back lawn and, as the morning sun hit him with all its power, he stretched his arms and lowered himself to that brown old lounge chair. The porch was the perfect combination of open space and privacy; walled in on all four sides, he could still soak in the sunlight and admire the sight of potted plants on the lawn – their leaves gently waving with every gust of wind – and trees rising to the sky beyond the walls. The grass was a bright, healthy green. He made a mental note to himself to water the plants and grass tomorrow. They weren’t in dire need of watering, but a little water never hurt.

He sighed as he laid back on the chair, raising his head to take in the blue sky, the shape of the sun emerging between the thin passing clouds. The book was on his lap and he turned his head down to look at it, his fingers sliding between its pages and gently pushing the book open where he had put the marker last night. The last verse he read last night was one of his favorites in the book:

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.
-Qur’an 3:103


He sat in silence, contemplating again this particular verse. And as a solitary bird flew over him and away towards the clouds, he began reading the following verses, mouthing every word and letter. In this condition he remained for the next hour, the passage of time going entirely unnoticed. Even the slightly increasing heat that signaled the morning was growing old was ignored.

The contemplation was broken by a soft, almost shrill sound from inside the house. “Eni, Eni,” came the voice, growing clearer with every footstep until onto the lawn emerged the figure of Farah Shawqi, his wife, holding a phone. “Ali is calling. I think he’s coming over today, right?”

“Oh yeah,” Eni Yargab sighed, then chuckled to himself as he reached for the phone, “that Sun Coffee PSA.”

He put the phone over his ear. “Hey Ali, what’s up? You’re coming today right?”

“Oh yes of course, just as I told you last night,” came the voice from the other side of Ali, his agent. “In fact I’m on my way now with the PSA video. It looks pretty good to me but hey you’re the man. You’re the one whose approval we need.” He broke out in a giggle, which was greeted merely by a silent nod from the man he was calling.

“You’re on your way now? I thought you’re coming after lunch,” Eni inquired.

“Wait, I told you I’m coming after lunch? Oh- oh yeah, my bad, there’s this sudden meeting at the agency after lunch. Boss just told me last night after our call. I haven’t told you? Damn lol, my fault, sorry about that lol. Right, I’m on my way, see you soon Mr. Yargab, tell Farah I said hi. Bye!”

Eni handed the phone back to his wife, closing the Qur’an with his other hand and, with the book in his grasp, slowly rising from the chair. “I thought we’d have this Saturday morning to ourselves,” he said, grinning, giving his wife a playful tap on the shoulder.

“Well, I guess that means we can have Saturday afternoon to ourselves,” Farah replied with a smirk, following her husband inside.

Another twenty minutes or so passed before a taxi rolled up outside the Yargab house. Ali stepped out of the taxi and onto the doorstep, carrying a laptop case. “Eni, my friend,” Ali said, smiling, hugging Eni as he opened the door, “oh my God I’m so sorry. I should’ve told you but I didn’t remember.”

“Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Eni replied, ushering his guest inside towards the living room, where a cup of hot coffee – courtesy of Farah (not Sun Coffee) – was already waiting for the visitor on the central table. Eni sat on the sofa facing the table, followed by Ali assuming his seat right next to his client on the sofa. Ali opened the case to reveal his laptop and USB, which he then laid on the table next to the coffee.

“Oh, cappuccino,” Ali said, glancing over at the cup as he opened his laptop and attached the USB.

“Yep,” said Eni, looking intently at the laptop screen. “Anyway, remind me again why you can’t just send the video to my email?”

“Security, my man,” explained Ali cheerfully as he clicked on the file of the video. “Don’t want anyone hacking into the email and stealing this thing. It's safer to put it on this USB."

Who the fuck is going to steal a public service announcement anyway? Eni wondered, though he simply nodded and kept his silence as the video had already begun. It began with the camera zoomed in towards him, wearing a brown suit and tie, and the Sun Coffee name and logo superimposed over the lower edge of the screen. “Hi, I’m Enlilbani Yargab,” he began.

The camera then zoomed out slightly. “Sun Coffee has given me this opportunity to talk about those that we both care about: teens.”

For someone who had spent the last decade or so appearing in one ad after another, even this 75-second spot had become so excruciatingly long. Even worse, it’s not even a very unique or rousing PSA. It’s rather boring. Eni watched almost emotionless as his on-screen persona delivered a speech about national statistics of drug use among teenagers, the dangers of drug use, and such things until all the words just became a blur to him.

After the 75 longest seconds in history, the clip finally ended with: “So don’t throw your life away. Don’t do drugs. If you’re doing it, stop it and get the help you need. Sun Coffee and I want to give you a chance, a chance for you to become anything that you really want to be.”

“Well, that was good,” commented Eni in a rather unenthusiastic tone as Ali took a sip of the coffee. “Looking back on it now, I’d probably replace ‘Stop it and get the help you need’ with ‘Stop it, get some help’ or something like that. More catchy.”

“So do you still approve of this one?” Ali asked, turning to his client.

“Yeah,” affirmed Eni with a little nod at the wall in front of him. Then he pursed his lips and turned to face Ali. His voice grew low and soft. “You know, Ali, do you ever feel like you’re useless?”

That question seemed to take Ali aback; certainly he did not expect to be asked anything like that. “W-well,” he stuttered slightly in surprise, “uh, no, thankfully, no. Why do you ask that?”

“Well, I feel useless.”

Ali furrowed his brows, obviously still rather confused by the question. “Why do you feel useless?”

“I don’t know,” Eni shook his head. “I just feel… useless. Like, I feel like I’ve never done much for people around me. I wanna be of use to others, if you know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean… but you’re not useless, you know? I mean, you’re the greatest player this country has ever seen. A huge star. You brought entertainment and happiness to millions.”

“But that’s the problem,” Eni replied. “I’m a star. I’m just a star. I’m just a guy that they pay to play football for ninety minutes hoping that we’ll win and people will be happy. But I’ve… I just want to, you know, more directly impact the lives of others, you know. Give food and clothes to the poor, build homes for the homeless, and all that.”

“Well you’ve lent your name to charities and you’ve endorsed them and helped them many times,” said Ali. “Actually, I think I know what you want. You want to intensify your involvement in charities. You want to be more involved in them.”

“That’s one way, yeah,” Eni agreed. “I mean, I just want to be useful to people, you know. I want my life to really have a bigger meaning outside football. Actually, Ali, I’m thinking about doing more charity work in the off-season. I think I can be of use to people. And, uh, Ali, I need you to help me here.”

“I’m always at your service,” said Ali.

“I’m not going to appear in any more commercial ads,” Eni explained. “From now on it will be PSAs only, if it's actually good enough. I don’t care how many shekels they’re throwing at you and me. I need a break from this advertisement circus. Especially in the off-season. I will concentrate on doing things that actually make me feel good and can help people. Things that are more than just appearing on fucking television.”

“Of course,” Ali replied, nodding and smiling. “I can help arrange that.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:43 am

Chapter 20: Reflections and Relationships


May 15, 2033
Adab City Stadium
Following the match against Mytanija


The night was growing old, and the stadium had been emptied. Where, just a few hours ago, the Adab national football team had scored a famous victory – a grueling 4-3 triumph – over Mytanija in the World Cup 88 qualifiers, now only there was only wind, sweeping past the grass, gently swaying in the night.

The security guards remained at their posts in and around the colossal structure, waiting for the burglars that never came. The seats were empty, the hallways deserted. The stadium was resting for the night.

But the guards were not the only ones who remained here at this late hour. Towering over the sea of seats was the executive box, the room where those who were privileged enough to be in a position of leadership in the Football Association, the national team, or Adab City FC would sometimes sit around the oval table, watching matches through the windows, eating and drinking whatever they wanted from the first minute to the ninetieth.

Standing by the windows, the green field and the thousands of seats laid out before him, was Saad Kaykali. The white lights lit up the stadium from end to end in the night, and the executive box, too. Behind him, across the oval table, the door slowly creaked open. Footsteps could be heard entering the room. Saad did not turn to face them.

“Inimabakesh, Rashid, come here,” he said in a low voice, mustering a faint, pensive smile, but still not turning. The footsteps grew closer and closer, until Saad found himself flanked on both sides. To his left was Inimabakesh “Ini” Thulus, to his right Rashid Abbas, his assistant managers.

“You’re not going home?” Inimabakesh enquired. He had been one of Saad’s closest friends through thick and thin, his assistant manager from back in the days of Independents Cup 5 and World Cup 81. Now he was back in that post, older and doubtful if he still had it in him to perform the job – like Saad himself – but nevertheless feeling that it was calling to serve the country. And his friend.

Saad shook his head, his lips clenched, his smile faded. “No,” he said simply. He didn’t look at Ini. None of the three men were even looking at each other.

“Mohammed came to me after the match,” Saad continued. “He told me that there have been rumors about Emma and Alulim.”

“The prodigies.” Rashid smiled, though he knew that this couldn’t be all good. As the younger assistant manager, he found it much easier than Inimabakesh to connect with the younger players. Everyone in the squad looked up to Saad, but if the veterans rallied around Inimabakesh, the young guns listened to Rashid. Not out of hate or any malicious feeling towards the other guy, but that’s simply the way it was. Each group just found it naturally easier to gravitate towards their respective assistant manager. Saad knew this, and sometimes he would relay orders to the veterans and the younger players through their respective guy.

“Have you seen any indications that their relationship is… more than a friendship?” Saad asked.

Inimabakesh shook his head, and Rashid did the same. Once again they were reduced into silence, which lasted for what felt like an entire minute.

Eventually, it was Ini who broke the silence. “You’re afraid it would be like Mohammed and Taymour.”

Saad sighed slowly. At this point the three of them still hadn’t looked at each other. Their eyes were focused on the majestic sight ahead of them, of the width and breadth of the stadium at night. “Whatever people do in their personal lives, it’s not my business. I’m just afraid that if it spirals out of control…”

“As far as I know it’s just a friendship,” Inimabakesh commented. “They’re just two people who bonded over being called prodigies, which by the way I think they are, and that kind of bond… others just don’t have. Nothing wrong with it. That’s friendship, and as long as it helps them work together in the team, I’d say it’s of great benefit to us, too.”

“Yeah,” Rashid mumbled simply.

Then Inimabakesh finally turned to face Saad. “Mohammed was the one who told you this?”

“Yes.” Saad still didn’t even glance at Ini.

Inimabakesh nodded in understanding, turning away. “The ghost of relationships past.”

“He does have a valid point, Ini,” Saad said, his voice pensive. “As far as I’m aware, their religions don’t really allow for interreligious marriage. Civil marriage is possible, but, well, religiously speaking it'll still be illegal. And our people’s attitude towards relationships between people of different religions are sometimes-“

At this point Ini abruptly cut him off, waving his hand dismissively. “It won’t get to that point. It will fizzle out if it ever gets to that point, just as how it fizzled out between Taymour and the girl.”

“Maybe we’re just overanalyzing things,” Rashid butted in. “As far as we know it’s just a close friendship. Nothing wrong with that as Ini just said.”

“True,” Saad said, nodding, then slowly turning to Ini, extending his hand to Ini’s shoulder. “When I told you to come here, you said you want to say something to me. What is it? Or have you said it to me?”

Ini shook his head. “You know, Saad, I just wanna ask you. Do you still feel passion for this job?”

Saad did not answer immediately, as if taking the time to contemplate Ini’s question, furrowing his brows. Then he lowered his head somewhat, his eyes traveling down from Ini’s face to the floor. “I know what you mean, Ini. We’ve grown old and cynical, and there’s no guarantee that the palace will just pull us out of competitions again if there’s another economic crisis in the future. But this is my country’s call, and I have to answer it.”

“I don’t know if I should still be staying here, Saad, to be honest with you. The times have changed, and after how they treated us during the whole crisis, I still don’t feel like I’ve completely regained my love for the game. I feel like I’m just doing this because the country and the people want me to. But I don’t know if I still love doing this.”

“Well, that’s a sign they still trust you. And I know for sure that I trust you, if that makes you feel better.” Saad raised his head, bringing his sight to Ini’s head, smiling and tapping his shoulder, then turning to Rashid. “How’s your father? Is he doing well?”

Rashid nodded in affirmation, turning to face the manager, though his voice was far from enthusiastic. “He’s doing well for someone at his stage. We’re doing everything that we can to… help him live as independently as he is capable of.”

“Good.” Saad smiled. “If you ever need anything, Rashid, you just go and tell me. And, well, Rashid, there’s a reason I also called you here. Ini and I and Naram-Sin just talked about it yesterday, along with Yitzhak, too, and we agreed that once we get the U21 team up and running for the Di Bradini Cup, we want you to manage the team. If it’s not too much for you, I’d very much love to see you take up the post. I think you’re the right guy for the position, and everyone else thinks the same, too.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

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Adab
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Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:44 am

Chapter 21: Where We Stand


May 23, 2033
Adab City
Following the match against Atheara


Four draws in a row. Adab’s daring campaign in Group 4 of the World Cup 88 qualifiers had initially been greeted with much jubilation by the people, who watched in amazement as this unranked side – composed of a mix of young stars and veteran figures – held off superior and more experienced teams in the first World Cup campaign in fourteen years. But as the qualifiers dragged on, the initial euphoria began to fizzle into worry and concern that the team was not doing more to solidify their position in the group and ensure qualification to the World Cup. Their initial triumph had placed on them expectations that seemed excessive. Manager Saad Kaykali even had to ask the public not to expect too much from the team. “When you start with a bang, there’s always a chance that the spark will fade a little bit along the way,” he said at the press conference after the fourth draw against Atheara. “That’s normal, that’s life. We’re doing the best that we can right now but there will always be ups and downs.”

As for the young man who, in the eyes of many, had become one of the keys to Adab’s success on the pitch, he tried to put all the negative chatter on the back of his mind. No need to think too much about them.

People called him a wonderkid, a prodigy, a future star, but at the end of the day man himself wanted to simply be a football player. And at the end of the day, after the match against Atheara at the Adab City Stadium, he simply wanted to go home and do his homework. Normal schooling had become impossible for him, but the Football Association, working with the Ministry of Education, had set up a long-distance learning system for its players, and he had quite benefited from it.

As the rays of the sun faded away into the dark blue sky, soon to turn black, Alulim Sinmuballit’s chauffeur drove him from the stadium to his home at the outskirts of the city, the first home that he owned himself. Being labeled the future of Adabian football had brought with it not just fame but also money. He even now had an accountant to help manage his finances.

But he just wanted to be home, to be alone, to take a breather, to relax. Arriving at home, he went straight to the shower, thanking Allah for every drop of water that streamed down his tired, sweaty body. He resolved to cook dinner (he lived alone) and do his homework, but first there was something else after all: a video call.

And now he sat before his laptop, waiting for the person on the other end of the call to appear. It didn’t take long before her figure emerged on the screen, her blonde hair undone and running down her hair, her grin pure and innocent. God, she really is pretty.

“Hi Ems,” he began, his words coming out rather slowly, checking to see if the camera was on. “Can you see me?”

“Of course I can, mister, I have eyes,” Emma Arthur replied dryly, smirking, leaning closer to the screen. “Remind me again why we’re doing this?”

“Oh, you said you want some help with your homework.”

“Nice to see that you still remember,” she giggled. “Ah, can you believe what the girls are saying? Rebekah, Tansu, fuck them, they just kept teasing me about that.”

“Teasing you about what?” he asked, somewhat innocently.

“Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about,” said Emma, leaning even closer. Alulim found himself pushing his chair forward to get closer to the laptop. He just felt like doing it.

“Oh yeah,” he said, nodding. “Well, uh, where do we stand on that issue?”

“It’s just nonsense,” she giggled again. “Silly girls’ talk. Alright, now tell me, what did Emperor Tizqar I do to protect Adab against Ottoman re-invasion?”


Hey, Kara, can you hear me?” Rashid Abbas, assistant manager of the national team, sat in his room, looking beyond the window into the darkening sky, putting the phone over his ear.

“Hey bro,” Kara Abbas replied. Her voice was clear as day, but at the same time she also sounded tired. “How are you? I caught some of the Atheara match on the telly. I think y’all did great.”

“Thanks, sis.” Rashid smiled to himself, turning his chair to face the wall, as his thoughts took him to his sister and father back in Faraby. “Did Dad watch the match too?”

“He did.” Kara appeared enthusiastic on the first sentence, but soon her voice lowered. “I don’t know if he understood what he was watching, though, or if he still remembers anything about football.” She paused momentarily. “He slept little last night, just went back and forth across the room. Sabiha finally got him to bed at 4 a.m. I really feel sorry for her.”

Rashid sighed. His father’s nurses had been of great help to the family, and he and Kara very much appreciated their presence. “You know, there’s something I’ve got to tell you,” Kara continued. “So there’s this guy at the office and, uh, he’s kinda cute and kind, and-“

“Oh, of course.” Rashid broke into a hearty laughter, leaning back on his chair and tapping on the table near him. “Hey, what? You’re scared of dating a coworker?”

“Well, he works at a different department, akshually, so-“

“That’s even better! No need to worry about workplace conflict or bias or all that, I guess.”

“Well, yeah,” Kara agreed, if rather hesitantly. “He asked me out earlier today, actually, and, uh, I said give me time to think. I mean, he’s cute and we do have this kind of connection but he’s, like, ten years younger than me-“

“Hey, if that’s your concern, it doesn’t have to be a concern at all. I mean, you’re 36. You’re still young and beautiful, you deserve love, even with someone who is beautiful,” Rashid said. Then his tone turned more wistful. “You know, Dad would love to see you get married and have kids and be happy. And you deserve it.”

“You too, big bro,” she replied. “Have you not found anyone in Adab City?” she added, this time with a slight giggle.

Rashid smiled, but also went silent. His distant gaze turned to the atmosphere, turning increasingly black though faintly dotted with stars. When he did speak, his voice was more regretful and resigned.

“I’m too old, sis. I’ve lost too many years of my life.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

User avatar
Adab
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:45 am

Chapter 22: Get-Together


Early June 2033
Adab City


And so I would like to take this moment to celebrate our journey so far,” said Saad Kaykali, standing, towering over the long oval table in the fifth-floor VVIP room of the Imperial Restaurant, into which his players, staff, as well as Football Association President Naram-Sin Araqasdah had crammed. The national team manager, the observant Muslim that he was, raised a glass of water, his companions holding everything from water to wine to tea.

“For some of you here,” he continued, his voice showing a sense of triumph, “this was your first experience in the World Cup qualifiers, and no one can say that we did badly. In fact we surpassed most people’s expectations. And we didn’t do too badly in the friendlies with Bollonich either.”

“And to the elders here,” he said, inviting smirks and giggles from the older members of the squad, “you have been great examples and mentors to the young people here, and I’m grateful that you agreed to come back when I invited you, and I trust that the nation is grateful too.” There would be no mention of the circumstances leading to Adab’s 14-year exile from international competitions, no speech about his lingering resentment at Araqasdah and the football authorities, which so far he – and everyone else concerned – had managed to keep from the players.

“On that note, I know I’ve said this many times before, but I will say it again, but we did a great job in the qualifiers. So here’s to a job well done and hopefully there will be an opportunity for us in the Cup of Harmony.” Kaykali then launched his glass forward, with everyone else following suit. “Cheers!”

“Cheers!” they all shouted in unison before drinking from their glasses and consuming the delicacies which had been laid out before them.

Following the dinner, as the players remained on the table, talking and socializing and just generally relaxing, Kaykali went off to the balcony. Soon he was joined by assistant managers Inimabakesh Thulus and Rashid Abbas and FA President Araqasdah. The Imperial Palace was just two blocks away, its vast expanse and stately architecture, adorned by golden lights, featuring prominently in the night amid the modern office buildings that crept up on it as if it were the center of the world. Above them the clouds were gathering. Saad leaned forward on the railing, taking in the view.

“How’s your father?” Saad turned to Rashid, standing stiffly just behind him, opening the conversation.

“He’s doing well,” said Rashid, nodding, breathing heavily. “He has his good days and bad days, but he’s doing pretty well.”

“To think that you are entitled to live in that place by accident of birth,” Inimabakesh said, pointing at the grandiose structure dominating the landscape in front of them. “Nothing against the imperial family, but I do wonder about that sometimes.”

“Well, we just have to make do with what we have in life,” Saad replied. “I wouldn’t trade my life now for being a prince or even the Emperor. I quite enjoy what I have now.” He furrowed his brows and glanced at Inimabakesh, “Wait, Ini, you’re-“

“I quit smoking four years ago, man,” Inimabakesh smiled, stepping forward and putting his hands on the railing beside Saad, still looking at the palace. “Not good for my health. Besides I hadn’t smoked that much for many years.”

The four men stood silently on the balcony, with no more words passing between them, contemplating, admiring the night. After a while Abbas returned inside for a drink, followed by Inimabakesh who needed to go to the toilet. Now only two men were left; Saad still held on to the railing, Naram-Sin a few steps behind him at the center of the balcony.

“I’m not going to sign a permanent contract, Naram-Sin. Not for now,” Saad said, not looking back.

“I’m not even talking about that,” Naram-Sin replied quickly, and Saad thought he could hear a faint laugh coming out of the FA President. “But you should still consider it. You’ve been here for like 25 matches since your return and you keep signing again after every match.”

“A permanent contract indicates a permanent commitment, and with everything else that I’ve got going on in my life right now I’m just not ready for that. Not now.”

“Understandable,” said Naram-Sin, “but we’ll still be here waiting for you. I mean, if you sign a permanent contract we can stop wasting thirty sheets’ worth of ink.”

“You know you can just do everything online now, right?”

“Formality, Saad. I wish I could do everything online, but you know the lawyers and archivists would want to have an actual physical copy. Just in case the online files are lost.”

Naram-Sin’s phone rang, and he took it out of his pocket and onto his ear. As his conversation with the man on the other end of the line continued, Saad took interest and turned around. “Yeah, oh… I knew it… of course, of course, tell them we’ll accept their invitation, of course we’ll be there. Sure… nah, roster is still the same… no changes, yeah, sure… alright, good to know.”

As Naram-Sin ended the call and returned the phone to his pocket, he found himself face-to-face with Saad, now leaning back against the railing with a smile forming on his face. “Cup of Harmony, I presume?”

“Yeah.” Naram-Sin nodded, beaming.

“Hot damn.”


Mohammed Marramzi – “The Captain” to everyone else in the national team – bade farewell to his teammates and hopped on his taxi. Outside a light rain was sweeping over the streets of Adab City. Sure enough, the driver recognized his famous passenger, and they made small talk during the journey, mostly about football.

His phone started beeping. Mohammed reached for his pocket and pulled the phone out. Taymour Frangieh was calling- wait, Taymour? The two people had generally maintained a respectful, if very distant, relationship following the hullabaloo of their younger days, and this continued when they both returned to the national team. It was very rare for Taymour to call him on the phone, and from the beginning of the call Mohammed had an uneasy feeling about all this.

“Hel-“

“You’re the one who told the boss about Alulim and Emma, weren’t you?” His voice was vaguely menacing. And Mohammed knew nothing good would come out of this call.

“Wha-“

“It’s not surprising that the boys and girls are talking about it, but now even the boss and Ini and Rashid are also doing it. I overheard them after the last match with Bollonich, discussing about their worries and all that. And the boss normally doesn’t concern himself with personal matters.”

“Right, so-”

“Listen to me, Mo. You may be the captain and I will always respect you for that, even after everything that happened between us, but if you ever try to do it again, then know that I will be there by their side. What you did to me, I will not let you do to them. Good night.”

And with that the call abruptly ended.

“Damn those scammers,” said Mohammed, sighing and leaning back on his seat.

“My friends have been having a lot of those calls too,” commented the driver. “Really annoying. I hope the government takes action and arrests those dimwits.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali

User avatar
Adab
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6684
Founded: May 28, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Adab » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:46 am

Chapter 23: The Lawyer


June 2034
Saad Kaykali’s house, Adab City


Saad Kaykali raised the phone to the tip of his ear. His legs were fully stretched, a blanket covering everything from feet to stomach, his head leaning back against the head of the bed. There was a dreadful feeling that came every time he realized he had spent the night watching too many videos on MyTube. The documentary video on Soviet general Andrey Vlasov’s defection to the Nazis in 1942? Great. Music videos of some of the biggest rock hits of the 1980s and 1990s? Great. Nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia, and most of those songs had stood the test of time. A video of a door doing an impression of Miles Davis? Well that’s a sign you’d been spending too much time on MyTube and needed to get off pronto. (Nothing against Miles, he was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, and to be fair the door does do a good impression.)

But every 60-year-old who heads a growing real estate company and also manages his country’s national football team will need time to relax, and watching random videos on the Internet is far from the worst way to do it. It may even help to take your mind off the fact that your daughter is seeing some random guy that she just contacted for the first time yesterday (or was it two days ago?) on some online application. Again, nothing wrong with that, but for people from a previous generation like Saad, that may sound a bit strange at times. Well, just think of it as an online blind date. 21st-century blind date.

But Aida was a grown-up woman now. A 34-year-old successful lawyer in Baghdad. They hadn’t met for a while, but still kept in touch every day through phone calls. She could take care of herself. And though Saad would never admit it to himself, he had been trying to keep his distance from her. Her little girl was now a career woman, and certainly one who did not want to be known simply as the daughter of the manager of the Adab national football team.

This phone call would not be to Aida. They had talked a few hours earlier tonight. When the voice finally came from the other end of the line, it was that of Khalid Murad, Saad’s lawyer of more than twenty years.

“Saad, hello there!” he began, his voice infected with enthusiasm even late into the night. “It’s 1 a.m. now – you’re in Adab City now, right? – what are you doing at this late hour? Planning some new tactics for the national team?”

“I wish,” Saad sighed, then giggled. “Well, the Independents Cup is still a month away, so for now I’m just spending my late nights at home watching people blabber on on MyTube. Like every 60-year-old in this country.” His voice trailed off, because for a moment he forgot what he intended to say next. But the memory came back and, after a barely noticeable pause, he continued. “I suppose I should be the one asking you, why aren’t you asleep yet?”

“You know me, Mr. Kaykali,” Khalid replied quickly. “I’m doing what I love the most.” Even at age 88, and having just come out of heart surgery, the man still maintained his infamously long hours in the office. “A few really big cases we’re working on right now. I can’t tell you too much about them, but I think you’re going to see a few guys from my firm in the news within the next few days.”

Saad smiled and laughed in a somewhat suppressed voice. “And the money keeps rolling in.” He knew Khalid would counter with his inevitable But it’s not about money, it’s about justice, he had heard that one too many times, and this time he was quick to cut him off. “You know, uh, I probably shouldn’t have called just to ask this question, and I’ve read about this on the Net, but, uh, I just want to be sure, you know, I just want to hear it from an actual lawyer.”

“Oh, what is it about?” Khalid’s voice grew curious.

“Well, uh, civil marriages between people of different religions are legal in this country, right?”

“Yes, absolutely, since Emperor Tizqar’s decree in 2020. I mean, yes, I don’t see them happen that often, probably because of, well, religious and cultural sensitivities, but you can civilly marry any other citizen of this country regardless of their religion. I can point you to-“ At this point, the old lawyer suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment or two, nothing – not even a whisper or a trace of a sound – came over the line.

“Uh, are you alright, Khalid?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Is… Is this about your play-“

“Nah, I’m just making sure, I mean… I’m just a bit curious about this topic. It does, uh, invite my curiosity.” Exasperation grew in Saad’s voice. Softly he shook his head and ran his fingers through both sides of his chin. Good God, stupid me, I really shouldn’t have brought this up with him.

Now it was Khalid’s turn to giggle. “Ah yes, of course it invites your curiosity. Hits pretty close to home, huh?”

“Well, no, not like that.”

“Well I have my religious belief and you have yours and I think they have theirs, but if they do decide to tie the knot, well there’s nothing we can do to prevent that but be warned that they might face social and religious opposition. I would advise-“

“Look, it’s not about them,” Saad said, enunciating his words more slowly to emphasize every single one of them. “L-look, thanks for your answer, I’ll keep that in mind,” he sighed, rolling his eyes up, moving quickly to change the topic. “You know, I just realized that we haven’t met for some time. Come over here some time, and bring Eliyahu with you. You know I can benefit from more tea and late-night discussions and all that.”

“I suppose that’s your way of saying you’re going to be in need of legal representation again soon, Mr. Kaykali,” Khalid said, barely disguising his snigger. “But sure! I’ll come over when I have some free time.”
Male, 20, Indonesian | Last.fm

Major partner in free association with Faraby (that's my secondary nation IRL).

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
-Muhammad Ali


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