"It's real! It's real I tell you!"
"Oh yeah? And how do you know it's real?"
"Because Sunan said so! He's the biggest, toughest, bravest boy in the senior class! He said he heard it!"
"Nuh-uh! Sunan's a big coward. There's no way he woulda gone into the jungle all by himself. You're stupid, and Sunan's a big fat liar."
"No, you're stupid!"
Lessons were over for the day, and the schoolchildren of Pai were brimming with energy and opinions. Rather than head home to work on their homework or to see their parents, they dashed onto a nearby football (soccer) field to blow off some steam and fire up petty arguments. They chirped and kicked around that black and white ball for a few minutes before someone brought up the newest urban legend. The girls were quick to distance themselves away from the senseless bravado and bold-faced lies while the boys eagerly gathered around to swap stories that held very little merit with virtually no evidence to back them all up.
"Prasert said that- he said that he and his dad went up there last night," squeaked the runt of the group as they congregated at the side of the field. No-one paid any mind to the football sitting idle in the middle of a nearby path. "He said that he- they found uh- they heard someone in there."
"What? So he and his dad heard it?" Half of the boys rolled their eyes while the other half crowded around the smaller boy in intrigue. "What were they doing up there in the first place?"
"Forget that! What did he say he heard? Come on guys, clue me in here."
"The ghost! He said he heard the ghost in there!"
The children all gasped and whispered amongst themselves in wonder before they converged on the runt demanding questions. Baseless myths formed from tiny slivers of truth didn't interest the adults at all, so at the expense of everyone nearby who wanted to relax, the children continued to swap their tales and spin lies about things they couldn't possibly understand. Being children, they had little to no handle on volume control, and thus the field attracted plenty of attention. Most adults paid them no mind and went about their merry way while others looked on, shook their head and wondered where this current generation was going to end up.
One adult in particular ground his teeth at all the noise and came stomping out of the woodwork. For Adon, the Muay Thai prodigy, the jungle at the edge of Pai was where he went to unwind, and to distance himself from the local riff-raff. It was a peaceful place until some idiot decided to put up a football field next to his favorite meditation spot a year ago. Screaming red hair down, bare-chested, sporting his trademarked blue and yellow boxing shorts and wrapped hands balled up into fists, Adon didn't look like a man who wanted to play games just then.
"Don't you brats have anything better to do with your time?" the man said with a snarl.
Seeing Adon and not Sagat, the children flinched yet stood their ground. The red-haired Thai man was a terrifying jerk in their eyes, and unlike Sagat, Adon hated kids.
"Now, if you were kicking around that little ball of yours and wearing yourselves out, I wouldn't give a damn. But I see you brats bunched together and yammering on about... about-" Adon waved his hand about in his search before scoffing. "What are you anklebiters talking about anyway?"
"The... The ghost, Mr. Adon," piped up one of the kids; a grubby-looking, gangly, brown-haired boy.
Like a cat who caught sight of a mouse in the underbrush, Adon's head snapped towards the boy and his eyes narrowed.
"T-the one haunting those ruins in the jungle!"
For years the people of Pai were blissfully ignorant of any shady dealings going on in the jungle bordering their village. They had heard about SIN and Shadaloo, but few believed that such despicable organizations wanted anything to do with them or Thailand in general. But nearly three months ago a thundering explosion ripped through the jungle and local law enforcement came swarming into the village to get to the bottom of everything. As a secret to everybody, the villagers soon learned that there was a Shadaloo base hidden deep inside the jungle. The key word being 'was', as when the law enforcement converged on the sight they discovered nothing but a destroyed concrete bunker with Shadaloo motifs strewn about the area.
For a week after the discovery, anyone who had any status whatsoever rolled up their sleeves and dug into the hidden bunker for anything and everything. The people of Pai, and Adon included, didn't care what was going on in that bunker or what was inside it. They only cared that it was affiliated with Shadaloo, and better yet, that it had been destroyed. The lawmen took what they could find within the bunker, analyzed what little data they could get their hands on and then scurried off, but not before restricting access to the ruins.
Said ruins would have been forgotten not too long after had it not been for a strange, foreign voice coming from them after two months.
"There's no such thing as ghosts," Adon replied matter-of-factly. "It's all superstitious nonsense."
"Well... Well, uh..." Another boy scratched his head, stumped, before he perked up. "What about that woman who came here a few months ago? The outsider?"
"You speak about this like I know what you're talking about. You'll have to elaborate. Better yet, what in the world does an outsider have to do with your silly ghost story?"
A few other children found their courage to stand up to Adon, or at the very least speak up.
"She was... wicked! Like, she was so strange that she couldn't have been real to begin with. The night before that big explosion in the jungle, this creepy woman came in and looked around before heading out- right towards that base we didn't even know was there!"
Adon placed his face in the palm of his hand and sighed.
"Uh-huh. What did she look like?"
The children looked over to one of the smaller boys as he pressed his fists against the sides of his head over his ears.
"She had horns!" the boy exclaimed. "She was all black and purple and white too. And she was mean! Really, really mean! But we couldn't understand her; she wasn't speaking Thai."
"Now you're just making things up," Adon growled. The kids yipped back at him in defense of their star witness, but Adon wasn't convinced. "Alright, I'll humor you then. So let me guess. You believe that this ghost in the ruins is that strange woman from three months ago? The very same woman that no-one has ever seen before besides you lot? It's probably a coincidence-" Adon cut himself off, blinked twice, then balled his hands into fists. "Rrrggh... It's all one big made-up story."
"But there's a voice, Mr. Adon. Prasert and his dad went to the ruins last night and heard a voice coming from within," chirped the runt of the group as the other children nodded. "They said that it sounded like a woman. An angry, foreign woman. It has to be a ghost!"
"Yeah, I don't believe any of this hogwash."
The red-haired Thai scoffed, shook his head and turned on his heel to leave when he heard one of the children, indignant, shout after him.
"You might not believe us, but we know that the ghost is real! And tonight I'm gonna go into those ruins to get proof!"
At that Adon had to stop right in his tracks. He glanced over his shoulder at the speaker, saw a chubby, black-haired whelp of a boy and couldn't help but laugh. And yet, just as he started to chuckle, reality hit him like a brick. He couldn't allow these children to go into those ruins. With the jungle slowly yet steadily overtaking the concrete and metal, there was a possibility that the structure would collapse on top of anyone who disturbed it. Knowing children and their tendency to touch everything in sight, Adon figured if one or several kids went into those ruins, few, if any, were going to come out alive. There was no way he was going to have their deaths weigh on his conscience, even if he hated them all.
Adon cracked a sardonic smile and shook his head.
"You're not going into those ruins, whelp."
"Why not? I'm not scared!"
"You should be. Not only are those ruins unstable and clearly off-limits, they used to be a Shadaloo bunker." Adon folded his arms across his chest. "Oh yes. Shadaloo. The very same organization that gets its sick kicks killing indiscriminately for... whatever nefarious plots or such. Who knows what kinds of sick, twisted things lie inside?"
But the children weren't convinced. If anything, they latched onto the chubby boy's declaration of courage and rallied behind him. With Adon as their antagonist, they started to get ideas.
"There's nothing in there but that ghost," the chubby boy arrogantly stated. "And you know what? I think you're the one scared. Mr. Sagat wouldn't be sca-"
Adon had to hold back from flinging himself forward. A vein cropped up on his neck as his eyebrows scrunched together, his eyes narrowed and his teeth flashed.
"You... miserable little worms... You're going to be the ones scared out of your minds when you eventually grow up and find yourselves with the real world barreling down upon you all. Worse yet, if any of you weaklings decide to practice Muay Thai, I'll be there to crush your hateful little heads in. Like this!"
Adon scooped up the nearby football and, with his gaze dead set on the children before him, he crushed the ball between his hands. The sudden pop, the destroyed ball and Adon's angry look was enough to get the children to run off with their tails between their legs, screaming and crying all the while. The man took some sadistic pleasure in scaring them off, but fresh children's tears weren't enough to mend his wounded pride. He wasn't scared of any ghost and for good reason. They simply didn't exist, and anyone who believed otherwise was a total buffoon.
He tossed the deflated ball away and cackled.
"Me? The emperor of Muay Thai, scared? What pathetic tricks were they trying to pull? I'm not even the slightest bit curious about those ruins anyway. They can fade away into obscurity for all I care." Adon rubbed his chin in thought. "Though... Those brats could still be thinking about going into there... Hmm! No, not likely. Only an idiot would think of going into the jungle in the dead of night."
Pleased with his victory and smug over the fact that there were no such things as ghostly women haunting old ruins, Adon went home... and then went right into the jungle.
"Stupid kids," Adon grumbled as he trudged through Pai's jungle in the dead of night. "When I get back there'll be hell to pay."
Once he got over the shame and stupidity of his desire, Adon got into a more casual and jungle-appropriate outfit, grabbed a flashlight and headed out to investigate those damned ruins. Wearing a nondescript shit and jacket combo, pocketed trousers and comfortable boots, it was Adon's hope that, were he to stumble upon anyone out there in the wild, they wouldn't recognize him and call him out on his lapse of judgment. He didn't bother to put on something more in case the rain came down or cold seeped through the brush. The man figured he would be in and out of those ruins long before the elements punished him.
Knowing the jungle like the big cat he idolized, Adon conserved his flashlight and made his way down a well-trodden trail. It was one of hundreds, but this one with its winding passes, scenic outlooks and luscious vegetation made it popular. In near-darkness Adon couldn't make out the night critters scampering about before his sight and retreating into their dwellings, and neither could he make out the massive tree roots that poked up from the trail and tripped him up. The man felt embarrassed about stumbling, so he used that for a good cause. Namely, angrily stomping through the jungle.
"If anything, the only thing I'll find in those godforsaken ruins... would be bats." Adon stopped at an intersection, took a deep breath and then continued on his way. He knew that he was getting close judging by deep tire tracks this far into the jungle. "Hmph. Well, there could be a clutter of leopard or golden cats in there. Better the latter, what with their habitats being trampled over so regularly," said Adon with increasing venom as he glared over at discarded police barricade ribbons. "Protect and serve, my ass!"
Other than a few more stumbles form bumbling around in the dark, Adon reached his destination without much trouble. Hidden away underneath the tall trees and protected by the uneven terrain was the Shadaloo base in all its forgotten glory. Thick, electrified fencing outlined the perimeter of the base with guard huts interjecting here and there for added security. Thanks to the explosion, attention from law enforcement agencies and time, the fencing was no longer electrified and was in a state of disrepair. The chain-link gate in front of the base was lodged deep into the rainforest mud thanks to constant traffic, which allowed Adon to see himself in.
He paid little heed to the signs warning him of an unstable structure, or that he was now trespassing. But Adon wasn't trespassing, as this was his jungle.
A concrete loading dock directed the man over to the entrance to the base. Adon flicked on his flashlight and scanned the drab, sturdy concrete walls of the structure in front of him. It appeared that the entire base was no larger than that of two American football fields placed side-by-side, though Adon had reason to suspect that there were lower levels. Nearly two stories high from ground level, the base certainly looked imposing, especially with those grim Shadaloo skull emblems framing the entrance. Said entrance used to be a set of red blast doors had they not been blown to smithereens with gaping holes where they were once anchored. Rocks, rebar and other bits of debris were blocking the entrance, but Adon found a way inside soon enough.
"I can see why this place is deserted. It's a pain to get here for anyone who doesn't know the jungle like myself," Adon mused aloud. He clambered over the pile of debris blocking his passage and slipped into the base's foyer, if it could be called that. "Once the Royal Thai Police and everyone else had their fill, they must've scuttled everything that they could..."
Such exposition was backed up by the sight of sturdy pillars and support beams lying in shambles throughout the expansive room Adon found himself in. Blast marks ran up and down what little bits of untouched concrete there were while rebar stuck up like bones. Glass and sharp metal were strewn about along with the remains of broken equipment. Simply put, the entire area was a deathtrap for the unwary, and the RTP wanted it to be that way. The whole base was a cold, dark and foreboding place that probably never saw any bright colors, nor did it serve as the birthplace for any genuinely 'good' ideas. Armed with his flashlight, Adon soldiered on and stuck to walkways that were still intact until he came to an impasse- that being nowhere else to go but down.
He shined his light into a gaping hole in the foyer's floor and took in what looked to be some kind of massive generator room below. Adon wasn't a techie, so he wasn't too sure of himself. He also believed that he wasn't a massive idiot, and so without any further reason to go further, the man clicked his tongue and shook his head.
"Nothing here but dust," Adon muttered under his breath, impatient. "If there was a ghost here, or more likely a survivor, I would have heard them by now. Nnngh..."
And yet, even as Adon voiced his frustration, he noticed something gleaming in the distance. He focused on it and, though it was far away, he could make out a faint purple glow. Curious and unwilling to return to his village empty-handed, the man dropped down the hole in the floor and came into the generator room. He swept his flashlight over the debris cluttering the area and felt a sense of dread. There wasn't much explaining it, but he knew deep down in his soul that this was where the true explosion happened.
"What the hell happened here?" Adon wondered as he glanced over at the walls and generators. Nearly every wall section was crumbling, deteriorating or already destroyed while the generators and other supplementary machinery were in pieces; damaged beyond any hope of repair. "Bunch of fools meddling with explosives, probably... Now, what's this?"
The glow lead Adon towards the very back of the room. A metallic orb of sorts was tangled up in a myriad of wires hanging above the floor within reach. Getting closer, Adon noticed that the orb had an eerily familiar Chinese yin-yang design. Some kind of violet energy was contained within the gumball-sized sphere, and it was very likely that it was responsible for the glow. The Thai man shuddered; not from fear, but from the odd feeling that he was being watched.
It was a preposterous thought that only served to irritate Adon. He gazed at the strange orb for a second longer before snatching it from its wired bindings without any care whatsoever.
"A curious little bauble... Well, I suppose this'll have to do." Adon shrugged and let loose a defeated sigh. "No ghost. No voice. Just a waste of my precious t-"
The wires that comprised the orb's hanging prison sparked as they swayed back and forth. Startled, Adon hopped back like a wary cat and looked on. That would have been the end of it, but the spark triggered a generator to come back online. The massive contraption sputtered and churned before it began to shake and bring to life the other generators as well as what few surviving lights were there in that large room. Shaking generators in an unstable structure did not bode well, so with the Shadaloo base rumbling all around Adon, he decided to cut his losses and leave.
He slipped the strange orb into his pocket, whirled around and booked it towards the gaping hole in the ceiling as debris peppered the floor all around him. The entire base was announcing its imminent collapse with a cacophony of horrid sounds, and Adon wasn't planning on sticking around long enough to hear the finale. He shot up an angled wall, kicked away a twitching surveillance camera from its wall mount and leapt up to catch the lip of his exit. Beneath him, the floor gave way to reveal a dirty, deadly abyss, but Adon had already pulled himself up and thrown himself out of the base by then.
The cool air of the jungle greeted Adon once he made it to safety. He keeled over to catch his breath, wiped his forehead clear of sweat and peered over his shoulder at the crumbling ruins of the Shadaloo base. Were he a little slower, such a place would have become his grave. As he watched more and more of the concrete deteriorate Adon adopted a smug grimace. Besides that strange, glowing yin-yang bauble or whatever it was, there was nothing of interest within the base. No ghost, no voice, no nothing. He could return to his home with his head held high.
Oblivious to the faint vibrations coming from the little orb in his pocket, Adon dusted himself off and started back from whence he came.
Author's Note: Hey folks. This here's based off an idea 'BB-Wolf123' gave me. One idea can make all the difference! This'll hopefully be a short story, and it's not yet complete. I've got another two chapters after this one, and I'll release them with a few days in between so I'll have enough time to finish the story. I don't mind if you don't want to comment or review, but I will encourage you to read and review the works of other authors/writers here in the Street Fighter fandom corner. 'Till next time, lads.