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[Academy RP] Something He Learned Today

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Gia Định, Ngọc Luật

On the busy streets of the capital city of Gia Định lies an apartment of an editor for the national newspaper "Báo Quốc Dân." 

His name is Đỗ Hoàng Mẫn, at the age of 45, he has been working for the national newspaper for 19 years now. He is a novelist, a heavy smoker, and, to some of his neighbors, a ladykiller. He has a skinny figure but a pair of strong arms, and one signature thing about him is that his palms are always warm to the touch. Inside his apartment, it is filled to the brim with newspaper cutouts, sticky notes, and cigarette butts. But behind all of them, inside a locked, glass sideboard, are trophies and photographs of Mẫn during his younger years. With awards ranging from sports, mostly tennis and badminton, to photographs of him being handed those awards. The photographs of him are far different from him today, from a man with strong health now lessened to nothing far from a walking stick.

He smoked a small puff of his cigarette and followed it up by a cough, "Goddammit, why is my head so empty!" he said as he threw away his cigarette and left his seat. He grabbed his jacket, notebook, camera and left his house for the first time in days. He walked out to the entrance of his small street and pulled out a cigarette. But right before he could light it, an old and crackling voice interrupted him.

"Going out to look for women again, aren't ya?" said an elderly woman selling sweet tofu inside a portable cooking pot and containers.

"No, Mrs. Hà, I just want to go outside and have my mind take the wheel once in a while," he said and followed it with a nervous laugh. But he can't deny that truth, whenever he went out he will always return with a girl in his arm.

The old lady let out a big laugh and said: "Well, don't let your brain run too far, or you might have to run after it!"

Mẫn nodded his head and started to walk through the traditional market street of Hà Hoàn Hổ Street. He walked while taking in the beauty of the street and the soothing voices of the sellers. He went around, taking pictures of things that shook his interests and after half an hour, he left the market without buying anything, but with only his camera being full of photos, from a saleswoman posing a picture with her buyer to children playing on bamboo mattresses that their parents set up for them to sleep on.

He continued on his merry journey until he came across the city's garrison, the place where the 203rd Armor Brigade is stationed. Even though Mẫn is only, what the field, called "People's Editor" he is not allowed to take pictures of governmental materials. He ignored that restriction, standing outside the metal fence, he took photos of the men in green uniforms, gripping their T98 close to their chest. Flying the Nationalist Republic's flag of red and yellow, they sang the Army's anthem, loud and clear and in sync with the onlookers. "Wherever you go, your country goes with you. Let's fight together for Ngoc Luat!" The men marched in order as they sang the hành khúc (military march). 

Mẫn try to finish his journey by going to the outskirts of the Gia Định, where a monument of the Ngocluatian War is located. A broken tank by the side of the Yellow River is one of Gia Định most popular tourist destinations. By the look, the tank is a foreign tank model with multiple bullet holes and a broken gun nozzle, near it, was a sign reciting the Battle of Gia Định. The Battle of Gia Định was once considered one of the bloodiest battles in the country's history, even with the military casualties only would account for the many trauma of the civilian. Even though the war is now in the past, many veterans still visit the monument, some shed a tear whenever they visit, while others salute when they see the maintenance workers cleaning the monument.

"The battle was a cruel one," said a nearby veteran when Mẫn was taking photos of the monument. "Nothing but suffering and cries every morning..."

The aged veteran was around his 80s and 90s. "Was what it like, sir?" asked Mẫn as he sat down next to the veteran on a wooden bench. "Something that humans should not go through, air raids, house burning, and looting, what worse is that it last for more than a month..." The veteran went on to describe his years as a conscript for the Nationalist Government, during which he had to commit crimes upon his brothers and sisters. "That's not the end of it, my boy," he told Mẫn, "You must have learned about the Red Terror, yes?"

Mẫn nodded his head, "Good, I will spare you the troubles of what we, followers of the Nationalist Government, done in this city..." The veteran finished his sentence by grabbing his handkerchief and wiping away the sweats on his forehead. "Ngoc Luat today is better than what it has been in the 70s. I know how corrupt the government is, but I promised you, boy, it is better to live right now than during the wartimes." The veteran stood up and slowly walked back home, leaving Mẫn speechless.

Mẫn took the final bus home, while looking through the window, he thought deeply about what the veteran said. The people nowadays are happier than ever, he went through his camera once more, the photos he took that day, people are smiling, they are joyous. Compared to the wartimes, it is better...

He went back to his apartment, opened his window, and started typing away on his computer. His name is Đỗ Hoàng Mẫn, and today, he wants to write something, something bright, something hopeful, something that he learned today.

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