The concept of this story, and, indeed, the concept of this entire one-shot collection was first conceived of on August 15, 2015. That was when I came up with the final 8 stories for The Heels of the Unknown. Now, that's not entirely true (I replaced the concept for story #5 (which eventually became Starfall) twice more, but I'll get more into that on Starfall's anthology page; I also replaced a story about Roshi and Oolong with a story about Super Handel, which became Crushing Blue).
The Heels of the Unknown was created as a fourth serious one-shot collection, following in the footsteps and legacies of The Brady Patrick Collection, The Black and White Collection, and Things Were Better Then. I settled on 8 stories rather early on in the conceptualization of this collection, for I did not want to reuse any number of stories I had previous used for a one-shot collection. There were various special things about this collection that were settled on rather early in the creation process: the fact that half of the stories are serious, while the other half are comedic stories; the fact that each story would be tied to Japanese aesthetics, particularly Japanese tea ceremony aesthetics; and the idea that there would be 8 stories, an auspicious number in Chinese culture.
Other ideas, such as the binaries of spring/summer/autumn/winter, the story theme songs, and the idea of having 4 canon character stories and 4 fanon character stories were things I came up with later. Below, I will list a brief timeline of The Heels of the Unknown, as recorded by me since August 15, 2015:
- August 15, 2015 - came up with final list of 8 stories; 4 comedy stories, 4 drama stories
- November 14, 2015 - did work on stories 1, 3, 7, 8 (KV note: all four of these stories are ones that remained to publication - A Shadow on the Wind, Down the Well-Worn Road, Black Dawn, and The Great Sushi-Eating Contest)
- December 15, 2015 - came up with three names for the story collection, though none are perfect (As We Wind On Down The Road; The Long and Winding Road; The Road Goes Ever On)
- December 22, 2015 - came up with idea to have a Sertung story instead of Majin story (KV note: the Majin story was the original idea for story #5, which eventually became Starfall)
- December 24, 2015 - came up with idea to have zen pictures + poetry + song reference for songs
- December 28-29, 2015 - all except story #6 given songs and story #2 was mostly plotted out during this time; decided to change story #5 from one about true Majin to one about Sertung and Verlate and Champa
- January 4, 2016 - came up with stuff related to the Supreme Kais in Sertung's story as I read over some pages (most notably Kaishin Orion's page) on the wiki, as was my duty as a judge for the 2015 DBF awards
- January 10-11, 2016 - looked up many pictures for top of page pictures of all one-shots
- January 11-12, 2016 - came up with two new story ideas, getting rid of the Sertung story and Roshi/Oolong story, replacing them with a Bojack story idea and a story idea about Super Handel (KV note: these changes were the last story changes for The Heels of the Unknown; from this point on, all of the story ideas were kept and written out on the wiki)
- January 13, 2016 - came up with all story theme songs and pictures, as well as did some research on the flowers for each and template construction; the Pikkon template was created
- January 14, 2016 - had TUN help me come up with a name for the story (Fin); however, I did not ultimately use that name for this one-shot collection
- January 15, 2016 - thought up another name for the story collection - The Ravaged Minds - but did not settle upon that; later, while listening to the closing theme of Cowboy Bebop (Blue), I came up with the name "In the End" and used that for this story collection's name at the time
- January 18, 2016 - came up with a final name for the one-shot collection (The Heels of the Unknown) and finalized five chapter titles - stories 2, 3, 4 were not given final names at this point.
- January 19, 2016 - came up with names for stories 2, 3, 4; found pictures for every character; posted story collection page on the wiki.
- March 31, 2016 - did significant work on story 1, and wrote two quotes for it; wanted to write the story this day but it was too late and I had school the next day, so I couldn't, which sucked.
- April 9-10, wrote most of Pikkon story (some was written on March 31)
So the above timeline covers everything up to the completion of A Shadow on the Wind. As can be seen, it took a while for me to settle on many things related to this one-shot collection. Naming it was a great struggle, as was coming up with the binaries, the themes of the collection, and all of the story ideas. Those took time. But I did have everything settled roughly 3 months before I wrote this story.
Below, I will list all of the story ideas I had for The Heels of the Unknown, including the four abandoned story ideas. I don't remember exactly when I started working on this story collection, or when I came up with it, but I'd like to think that it was soon after I completed Things Were Better Then and I knew that I still had several one-shot ideas I wanted to write out and I realized that I had been doing one-shot collections every year for the past three years. So all of those factors influenced me to create a new one-shot collection, and at first, probably in July 2015, I had more nebulous ideas, which you will see below. I don't believe I ever modified any of these story ideas; all of them were written in July or August of 2015:
- 1. Pikkon - Pikkon tracks escaped Babidi and Kid Buu (from IR), whilst also dealing with his own feelings about his death and past life. He finds them on a ruined, rainy world and easily defeats them; he almost just leaves to return to the realm of the living, but at the last moment decides to return to the realm of the dead, noting that his time is over.
- 2. Cui - Cui gets into an argument with Guldo about some candybars that leads to a dance-off and other crazy shenanigans between the two and other Ginyu Force members and members of Frieza's empire.
- 3. Elijah - Elijah looks for Makare's blade, noting what happened to the other 5 legendary tamahagane katanas that existed as well. He finds the blade in a bandit hideout being wielded by a bandit chief. Colonel Violet is present during this. Elijah meets several people with black eyes who spook him.
- 4. Korin - origin story, featuring Garlic, Makyans, Beezelbub, and others.
- 5. Bojack - A story about Bojack as he genocides through space just before being confronted by the four lesser Kais, who of course imprison him in a star, but that occurs off-screen.
- 6. Super Handel - A story about Super Handel, his drug addictions, hookers, murder, poker, and of course his pet cat. Set in a cyberpunk world - must have lots of focus on the city, the rain, the technology and the disparity between machine and man.
- 7. Cyleria - This story details Cyleria's last days alive as she and her squad clear a planet, get marooned on it, and are met by Zarbon. A fight ensues, where Zarbon and his lackeys kill all of the Saiyans, despite Cyleria's plea for mercy since she's pregnant.
- 8. Ledas - This would be the sushi eating competition between Ledas and Tarble, expanded a little bit to show some information about Ledas' life since TF.
Discarded story ideas: (KV note: the number in front of each name is where that story would been placed in the above collection; as can be seen, only stories 4, 5, and 6 had multiple story ideas vying for those spots)
- 4. Roshi & Oolong - the pair tries to alleviate their boredom by finding some hotties, but instead they just find some huge fat tall women. (story concept abandoned on January 11-12, 2016)
- 5. Sertung - Sertung drifts through life, dying a slow death as the universe is thriving around him, watching the Daman empire crumble and the Kais rise; he is alone with Verlate's mind prison and eventually runs into Vados and Champa, and he gives them Verlate's mind prison before succumbing to his disease. During his meeting with Vados, a Supreme Kai appears and attacks Vados with a spirit bomb but is killed. (story concept abandoned on January 11-12, 2016)
- 5. True Majin - Story about True Majins and why they almost went extinct. Perhaps this one will deal with a True Majin who survived to present times to meet the Priests of Amoon and Majin Nikto. (story concept abandoned on December 28-29, 2015)
- 6. The Benefactor - A comedy story about TB escaping from the ice world, dealing with space truckers and the like. (story concept abandoned on August 15, 2015)
From what can be seen above, there was a bit of chaos in the summer and autumn binaries. Indeed, there was quite a bit of uncertainty with those stories up until late January 2016. As opposed to those two seasons, spring and winter were set almost from the beginning. The concepts of those four stories remained unchanged throughout the almost year-long process of conceptualizing and writing out this entire collection. And of those, A Shadow on the Wind benefited the most, for it was the first story to be written, and thus, it was the story I spent the most time on, conceptually.
I probably spent more than twice as long coming up with the plot, themes, characterization, and all the other aspects of this one-shot compared to the others in this collection, simply because I had from mid January to mid April 2016 to work on this story. For every other one-shot in this collection, I had less than a month to work on them. That is simply because as soon as I had written A Shadow on the Wind, that compelled me to put a timeline on completing the one-shot collection. I decided that each seasonal binary (spring, summer, autumn, winter) should be completed quickly, so as you can see if you check each one-shot's history, each comedic story for each season was completed only a few days after that season's dramatic story. In the case of spring, I'm a Candy Man was completed about three days after this story.
As with all "first" stories in my one-shot collections, A Shadow on the Wind is a bit odd. It doesn't feel totally like the other seven stories because it was written with no concept of what a completed The Heels of the Unknown story would look like. I think this is also seen with Sixth (the first story written for The Brady Patrick Collection), Bluestreaker (the first story written for The Black and White Collection), and Glory (the first story written for Thing Were Better Then). This story's themes are a bit less subtle than what is seen in the rest of the collection, and the prose in general, in my opinion, is a bit less like the other one-shots in this collection.
However, this story is much like the others in many other ways. For example, I resolve a cliffhanger from Dragon Ball Z: In Requiem in this story (one that Destructivedisk thought I didn't need to, but I disagreed with him, obviously). This connection with another story of mine, with the greater KidVegeta Universe, is something I first attempted to a much smaller scale in Bonetown Blues in my previous one-shot collection. Here now, this one-shot (and indeed, most of the stories in The Heels of the Unknown) has a binary function in that it serves as both an epilogue to In Requiem whilst also maintaining the themes, aesthetics, and characterization I was going for in this collection.
In many ways, The Heels of the Unknown is me trying to resolve many aspects of my universe that have been left unresolved. Of course, not everything that I leave unresolved is something I want to later resolve (having some mysteries and ambiguities is good for a dynamic universe), but in this case, this was something I wanted to resolve. Since Babidi and Buu are both canon characters, I didn't want to leave their fates up in the air, for fear of later canon contradictions (in case Super ever brought them up again, for instance). That was the main inspiration for this story. Indeed, I had had this story idea since before the creation of Things Were Better Then, my 2015 one-shot collection. The idea that Pikkon would go out and re-capture Babidi and Buu is something that has been in my head for so many years, it's essentially been a canon fact to me (for my universe)... so I decided to write it out.
So in terms of how I wrote this story, I wrote two quotes for it on March 31, 2016, at around 2 am. These two quotes were the first bits of prose I ever wrote for The Heels of the Unknown. They are: "He closed his eyes and felt the pulse of the universe. One pulse, not two, he thought. Babidi, and no Buu." and "It was the oldest, most real thing in the universe: champion against foe. Which was he?" Those two quotes may have been modified in the final version of this story, but those were the first things I wrote for this story. I often approach stories from an aesthetic or thematic viewpoint, and I think those two quotes illustrate what I was attempting to do with this story in a visceral way. I was unable to write more than that at the time, though, since I had school in the morning.
I continued the story on April 9, 2016, starting at 11:21 pm, and I continued writing until 4:24 am of April 10. Then, exhausted, I collapsed into bed. When I woke up, I re-read the story and edited it from 5:32 pm to 6:46 pm. I posted the story on this wiki at 7:09 pm of the same day, and the rest is history. I do remember this story took the longest to publish because not only did I need to format the italicized text, but I had to create the template (I was able to do the template much quicker for the other stories when I had this story's template as a reference point). Other than that, there's not much to say about the writing process. It was rather hard and grueling, and I remember writing all of it, but there was a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I finally finished this idea that had been swimming around in my head for at least two years.
Anyways, one last thing I want to mention before we get to the specific story commentary is that every story in The Heels of the Unknown was given a theme song before I began writing this collection. I created a playlist of the songs on January 19, 2016 that can be seen here. As any astute reader will notice, only one out of the eight songs ended up being used for these one-shots. Yes, that is true. I'm not sure why that happened, but the songs I intended for the one-shots were mostly discarded as I wrote the one-shots. As I wrote the stories, I thought different songs would work better for most of them, including this one.
Below, the original list of theme songs is listed: (KV Note: all of the songs, except for the third one, were discarded by the time each story was published)
- 1. Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) LIVE xxx
- 2. Rocket Man (Elton John) xxx
- 3. Along the Road (Radical Face) LIVE
- 4. Hey Bulldog (The Beatles) xxx
- 5. Hrafntinna (Sigur Rós) LIVE xxx
- 6. Get Home (Bastille) xxx
- 7. Silent Spring (Radiohead) LIVE xxx
- 8. Choke (Bowling For Soup) xxx
The actual list of songs I used is below:
- 1. Saturn (Sleeping at Last)
- 2. La Bamba (Playing for Change) LIVE
- 3. Along the Road (Radical Face) LIVE
- 4. Revolution (The Beatles)
- 5. Kveikur (Sigur Rós) LIVE
- 6. Deutschland (Die Prizen)
- 7. Bodysnatchers (Radiohead) LIVE
- 8. Weight of Living, Pt. 1 (Bastille)
As can be seen, four of the songs are live, while four are studio recordings. This is another one of the binaries in this collection, and one of the coolest ones, in my opinion. For A Shadow on the Wind, the use of Saturn by Sleeping At Last focuses on the themes of existence, loneliness, life/death, and has a really cool space-theme to it all. I thought all of those aspects of the song greatly aided this story thematically and tonally.
Anyways, that's all I think I needed to say in this opening monologue, so onto the endnotes! I haven't read this story since its publication, so this should be fun.
|A Shadow on the Wind|
The wind rolled over him, causing him to shiver. Below lay the planet, awash in shadows. I’m back in the universe again, Pikkon reminded himself. I have to be careful. He knew his body could no longer support the same amount of energy he had begun to take for granted in Other World, not now that he was back amongst the living.
But that was no matter. King Yemma had trusted him. Pikkon would not let him down.
He closed his eyes and felt the pulse of the universe. It was an odd sensation, to be back here. He remembered this feeling only vaguely; it was not as it had been in Other World. He remained motionless, even as the wind continued to howl around him. Rivers of thought began to snake through his mind, fervent and short-lived. He used to be able to sense life as easily as he took breaths. Now he was struggling with both reflexes, as if he was a newborn. I’ve been dead too many years. I wasn’t meant to come back.
He was inharmonic with the rest of the universe. Out in the cold of a distant, lifeless planet, that feeling of loneliness alarmed him and weighed down on him from his shoulders and pushed outward from inside his rib cage. It hurt more than he would have expected. The longer he kept his eyes shut, the more he sensed, the more he began to feel. It was a slow awakening. Yet, even as his living abilities were returning to him, none of it felt right to Pikkon. He did not feel at home here; he did not feel like this was where he was meant to be.
And then, in an instant, everything opened back up for him. He felt life. One pulse, not two, he thought. Babidi, and no Buu. That would make things easy.
Pikkon calmed himself, tried to spread his energy across his body to harmonize with himself in this living world again, and then dived down to the dark world awaiting him.
It was the oldest, most real thing in the universe: champion against foe. Which one am I? He didn’t know if he was either, truth be told. He knew little of Babidi or why the wizard had escaped from Hell. Pikkon expected no challenge, or a poor one at best.
Once, though… he had been a hero. That had been so long ago, it strained him just to try to remember it. All he remembered now of what had killed him, what had left him as he was… well, there were flashes, blurred images, the sounds of screams, the smell of blood and ash and sweat. He remembered remembering his memories a thousand times over until all that remained was an echo of an echo of a voice that could no longer speak.
Landing in the dark sands by the beach, Pikkon sensed that Babidi was not far away. I should sneak up on him. That way, he won’t be able to try anything. The beach itself was a desolate place, smelling of decay. Its dunes stretched out behind him endlessly into the night; ahead, he could hear the rustling of waves lapping against the shore. The air smelled faintly of brimstone, and the rhythmic sloshing of the waves provided Pikkon with enough auditory cover for him to run forward towards his quarry.
This place had once been populated, the warrior could see. But was it Babidi or something else that destroyed them? He sensed no one – no sentient being – aside from himself and Babidi on this world. And yet ruins marked the landscape. The beaches were filled with charred, old wooden huts, debris blown across the endless sands, but Pikkon could not tell how old they were. Strange, he thought. Everything looks like it’s been here forever – the ruins, the beaches, the waters. It all seemed to go together to him. Ahead, on a tall cliff-face, Pikkon saw a stone tower crumbling into the sea when green lightning flashed across sky. If it had stood for a thousand years or one, he could not tell. It’s beautiful, Pikkon thought. Beautiful and sad. He shivered again.
His footsteps marked in the sands in a neat trail. It was real – inarguably, he still existed. But soon, the waves will come in and wash the sand away. Pikkon tried to clear his thoughts, to return harmony to his body, but it was no use. He hadn’t expected that returning to the universe would do this to him. Now, looking back, he was a fool to think otherwise.
Once, he’d been a mighty warrior, a hero of his people. Pikkon hadn’t thought about his death in a long time. Just being back in the fresh air of the living universe, however, made something in his brain scream that this was right, that this was where he was supposed to be. He ignored that, and instead tried to remember again. He remembered them cheering his name, though for what, he could not say. He remembered fighting something – or perhaps someone – but his memories offered him nothing more than jagged, impossible shapes drifting from the fog in the back of his mind. So too did the haunting shapes of monsters drift in and out of the darkness around him. Pikkon was sure that they were mere tricks of the eye, for he could sense nothing, but every now and then, he thought he saw a gleam of eyes, or a snout bared, or an angular, tilted face – alien as life was to death – peeking at him from behind the cloudy veil.
The rocks were windswept and grey, many of them poking up from the sands in attempts at monolithism. Some had succeeded – the one that Pikkon believed Babidi was behind stood almost as tall as the cliff with the ruined tower. Others were scattered across the shore, closer to the cliff, in varying heights, making a maze of the land. On them grew white roots, webbed and spread out like sickly blood veins. Why did Babidi come here? What was he hoping to accomplish? Pikkon had never felt the lust to return to the living world, not enough to want to break free. Why Babidi had, he could not guess. Maybe the wizard had simply not been willing to die yet. Pikkon knew that he could find his freedom if he wanted it. If he truly wanted it, he could run off, just like Babidi had. He could betray King Yemma as Babidi had. And there’s no one in Other World strong enough to bring me back. That was the major separator between Babidi and him, the one that Pikkon knew would seal both of their fates.
Another burst of lightning whipped across the sky. Pikkon braced for the inevitable clap of thunder, but it never came. It was then that he realized the previous flashes he had seen had not had any thunder following them, either. That’s weird, he thought. It’s not natural.
Stumbling and feeling his way through the near-darkness, Pikkon navigated through the broken path of rocks to the water’s edge. There, on one side, was the shore: uniform, serene, austere. And on the other side were the waves: bubbling and rocking and racing to meet the shore. A flash of lightning exploded across the sky again, causing Pikkon to duck behind a rock. When he stuck his head out again, the afterglow left enough light for him to see a small figure huddled over something just where the water met the sand. Babidi. What could he be doing?
Pikkon was hopelessly confused. It’s not my place to question things, he reminded himself. I swore to return Babidi to King Yemma. That’s it. Find him, capture him, and return him to Other World. Nothing else. The warrior stepped forward, thrusting his fists out and falling into a fighting pose. He felt his feet sink into the sand. The wind was severe here, perhaps coming in from the sea, or perhaps not. Something was not right; he could feel it in his bones. I’ve been too long here. We need to get back.
His muscles were taut, his fists raised. His weighted clothes billowed around his willowy figure. He was like a coiled spring, loaded with energy and completely at rest. And when the lightning flashed again – this time, he could see that the green bolts seemed to leap up from the water’s edge, where Babidi huddled – Pikkon shouted, “It’s over, Babidi! Give up, or I will have to restrain you.”
The figure across the sands perked up and spun around. Pikkon saw a squat thing, fat and covered in thick robes, which flapped and flailed about it. When it looked at Pikkon, the warrior felt a shot of adrenaline shoot through his chest. He has no eyes, no face, Pikkon saw, horror coming to him. That isn’t Babidi.
“You’re going back to Hell, where you belong.” Pikkon’s voice was wavering a bit now, uncertainty clouding his usual cool demeanor.
But his foe didn’t seem to hear what he said. It cocked its head and then ran off into the far darkness. Pikkon went to pursue him when, from the tall rocks on either side of the path, two creatures jumped down on him. It’s an ambush, he realized too late.
They looked much like the false Babidi. They had skulls for faces, and wide, eyeless holes from which the darkness stared back at him. Pikkon shrugged them off and threw them to the sand. They’re weak. But why can’t I sense them? The two jumped up with uncomfortable speed and then rushed him madly, screaming and frothing at the mouth. The waves went out and came in again. Pikkon fell into his stance, daring his foes to try again. This time, they will not get up.
When emerald shards of electricity once again flung themselves into the sky – this time, farther away than before – the light that briefly filled the beach illuminated his two opponents and shone through them. They’re translucent, like ghosts. That was not all: with the light so clearly on them, Pikkon could see that these robed beings looked quite a bit like Majin Buu – they had head tentacles, pale pink skin, and were slight of frame and short of height, just as he had been. Their faces were bare skulls, but they appeared to have skin otherwise.
I challenged Buu once… when I didn’t know what he was. Pikkon had risked his entire existence by doing so, when Majin Buu had been teleporting through the universe and Other World in search of Goku and Vegeta. When a dead being dies, they are removed, totally, from existence. And yet, even though he knew now that was the case, it didn’t bother him. He would have done the same thing had he known Buu’s power. I guess that’s the hero in me. I can’t remember being a hero, but old habits die hard. I wonder what that would feel like, to be forgotten. He didn’t know if it would be much different than how he felt now. I wonder if anyone still remembers me, from my homeworld. Did they build statues for what I did? Did they write stories? Or did they die out, just like me? Pikkon didn’t know; desperately though he tried, he could not remember the circumstances of his death, if he had sacrificed himself for his species, or if he had died along with them. Maybe I’ll ask West Kai when I get home.
“Thunder Flash Attack!”
A spire of flames greeted the two demons. Pikkon thought he heard them scream. When the smoke cleared, only burn marks remained in an elongated crater of glassed sand, where two living beings had once been. And now they’re in Other World. Just like that; it was so easy, killing. Life was the strangest system of order in the universe. It contradicted the gradual entropic tendencies of all other things in nature – stars, planets, galaxies. It was the only system to do that. Life, thought Pikkon, there’s something unnatural to it. Something alluring. He didn’t know why that allure had died in him. The waves came in and filled the crater, and the burn marks vanished under a torrent of sulfur-smelling waves.
He found the third being not far away and eased its passing with a decapitating beam. But where’s Babidi? I felt him; I know I did. And these sickly creations of his… they don’t have power signatures. Not like his. He’s weak by my standards, but Babidi would give about half of Other World a run for their money. Someone that powerful shouldn’t be able to hide. Pikkon closed his eyes again and tried to focus. When he did, he was greeted by images of streets running with smoke, green-skinned beings running with their hands above their heads, their flesh melting from their bodies, some covered in fire, others lying in the streets moaning and watching their bodies fail them. He had stood amongst them, stood down what was chasing them. He could see it then, clear as water. The creature had poked its head out of the smoke, just a fraction, and then… There!
He felt Babidi, and this time he knew it was truly the wizard. The power signature was unmistakable and it was troubled – evil, some would call it. Such labels didn’t concern him. The power did; it was not even a quarter of his own. This will be over soon.
Out at sea he found the wizard, hovering above the churning midnight waves. Robust tendrils of some species of water tree, or perhaps something else, rose up from the waves, some poking hundreds of feet in the air. Around them, small tree-like saplings flew and bobbed in the wind, their green-yellow pollen spread across the air as far as the eye could see. And amongst all of this was Babidi. In front of him was a dark ball Pikkon knew held the dormant Majin Buu. Babidi was shooting green electricity into it, muttering to himself. His halo burned a bright white-yellow above his head, and Pikkon could see beads of sweat trickling down the wizard’s wrinkled green egg-shaped head.
“Babidi,” Pikkon growled. The wizard looked up, and Pikkon saw fear in his eyes.
“N-no… I need more time! Wait!”
“You must return to Other World with me.”
“I’m not going back! I’m never going back!”
Pikkon hovered steadily, unmoved. The wind tore through his clothes, blowing them about in a maddening display, but otherwise he was at peace. “I wasn’t asking you.”
“If you don’t leave now, I’ll release Majin Buu again! And you know what that means… he’ll destroy the universe!”
King Yemma gave all of Majin Buu’s power to a human child. I am in no danger. “He won’t. And you won’t release him. Now I’m only asking you one more time. Come quietly, or I’ll be forced to–”
“P-p-pleaseeeeee!” Babidi whined. “I can’t go back! I want to live!”
“But you died. These things have already been decided.”
“You don’t understand. I’m not ready, you see! I have so much more I want to do.”
“I’m sure plenty of others thought that too. How about the billions you and your monster killed? How many of them wanted to live? How many of them weren’t ready to leave this realm?”
Babidi’s eyes widened. He looked lost. Then, he spit. “If you let me go, I’ll make you the strongest warrior in the universe!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m a powerful wizard,” Babidi replied. “If you join me, I can help you tap into unimaginable power! All you have to do is join me.”
“Is that what you were trying to do with Buu?” Pikkon nodded to the cocoon. “Doesn’t look like it worked. Otherwise you would have already released him.”
“I can make you into the perfect warrior! Just look at what I did to Vegeta… to Dabura… You would become a god!”
Pikkon shook his head once. “I’m fine with how I am, thanks.”
Babidi went pale. His lip was quivering. The wind sang between the two; the waves crashed against the shore beneath them.
“Come on, why don’t you think about it? Don’t you want to be alive too? You can come with me… you can be free. We can help each other!”
“I don’t need your help.”
“S-so… that’s it, is it? Well, I won’t go down without a fight!”
Babidi shot back into the darkness, warming up fire between his palms. Before he could shoot his attack at Pikkon, the warrior teleported behind Babidi, knocked the energy from his hands with a low kick, and wrapped energy bindings around his arms, legs, and torso. The wizard had been so pathetic, so weak; he had barely put up a struggle at all. Now, he wriggled and writhed, but Pikkon knew there was no getting out of those bindings.
“Before we leave, I want you to answer one thing.”
“Never!” Babidi coughed. “Let me go, let me go, LET ME GO!!”
“Why did you create those other three creatures? Were you trying to create another Majin Buu? One who hadn’t lost his power?”
Babidi stopped fidgeting. He stared at Pikkon, who calmly stared back until the wizard finally averted his eyes.
“Well? I asked you a question.”
Babidi stuck his nose up and looked away, more annoyed than scared. His arrogance… his disobedience. He doesn’t seem to realize that he’s lost.
Pikkon suddenly teleported forward and punched Babidi hard in the stomach. The little green magician squealed and spit up blood. “You know what happens to those who die after they’re dead?” Babidi did; everyone in Other World did. No response came, however. “You really want to live. So, you better start talking. I’m not in the mood for you giving me the silent treatment. Tell me why you created those three monsters or I’ll wipe you out of existence.”
The threat was bold and arrogant in its own right, Pikkon knew. He didn’t care. So much of what we are continues on after death… legacies, philosophies… and no one who ceases to exist will be forgotten. Everyone’s actions influence the universe. What Babidi and Buu did to the universe has shaped it into what it is today. Even if I blast him away, that cannot be undone. But Babidi doesn’t seem to know that… or if he does, he doesn’t care. Every moment Pikkon remained in the universe, he felt a little more alive, a little more in-tune with the harmonies of reality. But no matter how accustomed he got to the old way things worked, where time was not a constant, where death and decay were the driving forces of everything, something still felt off. He didn’t feel right here. There was a piece of him he knew would never readjust. I wonder if it’s like that for Babidi. I wonder if he has realized things will never be the same.
“I wanted to create life,” Babidi explained. “I wanted to make a better universe!”
“You destroyed so much… all those millions of years ago, and when you came to Earth. Those you killed, those planets you destroyed… that will never be the same. Those wrongs will never be righted. The only constant in the universe is that everything dies. Order becomes disorder,” Pikkon said. “And you want to return to that? Why?!”
Babidi frowned. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I was going to change things for the better! I captured Majin Buu. I saved everyone from him! He was going to re-absorb his power from that human boy. But I stopped it! I’m a hero!”
“And then you created three more of his kind out of fear that you couldn’t protect yourself from me… you knew someone was coming for you. Too bad you don’t have the power to stop me.”
The wizard scrunched up his face and looked as if he was about to say something. He opened his mouth and then closed it. “I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re screwed up. We could have done great things, you and I.”
But we won’t. “It’s time I take you back to King Yemma. He’ll be wanting to speak with you.”
Again, a wave of fear shone in Babidi’s face. How could such a pathetic creature have done such terrible things to the universe? It seemed like, to Pikkon, that that was too often the case. His fellow warriors in Other World often talked about the foes who had killed them, and oft as not, the monsters were sickly, vengeful little beasts who wanted to get revenge on the universe for their fates in life. Mine wasn’t, though. He had been a huge monster. Pikkon tried his best to remember its face, to remember how it had killed him. Had he managed to kill it in return? What was it doing on his planet to begin with? Did his people survive, at least? The harder he thought, the less he remembered, until all he could focus on was his heartbeat, ringing loud and true in his ears.
Sighing, Pikkon gathered up his petulant quarry, and sped off. And as he flew, he beheld the light of dawn peaking over the far-off horizon. The sky blossomed pink and orange and spread over the grey-green waters of the ocean like watercolors. Pikkon weaved his way through the tendril-trees spiking up from the water and blinked pollen out of his vision. As he flew, he felt the warmth of the planet’s sun hit his face, and pleasure washed over him. This feeling was that of being alive, he knew. But I’m dead. And I’ve been dead for a long time.
Below him, Pikkon noticed the waves rolling in and falling back, beating endlessly against the beach. The rhythm of the universe, he thought. Whether we live or die, that will never change. At first, he thought that was a hopeless thought, a bleak sentient-less outlook; but the more he reflected on it as he flew off with Babidi, Pikkon began to realize that, perhaps, things were better than they seemed. He didn’t need to be something more than he was; he was perfectly fine being that shadow on the wind, the smallest of things standing in opposition to the decaying order of the rest of the universe. Pikkon had been a mighty hero once, but that had been so long ago – so long ago that he barely remembered it.
A smile crept onto his face as he wondered what his people would think about him now. I’m not the man they think I am anymore. And with that thought came a surge of energy through Pikkon’s body. He felt warm again; he felt a sense of serenity wash over him. Pikkon knew that finally he was in harmony with himself.
- The name of this story is not a reference to anything outside of the universe. It merely refers to Pikkon, how he feels like a shadow (since he's a dead man in the living world), and focuses in on the fact that he's sort of just drifting through his existence, partially of his own volition, and partially against his will.
- At the bottom of each The Heels of the Unknown one-shot is a template with the eight stories divided into four seasons. Each color is a color I thought was emblematic of that season (light green being the one for spring, which this story is part of). Additionally, each season has a Japanese kanji portrayed over it. For spring, this kanji is "和", pronounced "wa", meaning "harmony". This is one of the four tea ceremony principles of Sen no Rikyū, which I incorporated into this one-shot collection. The four principles are in all eight stories, but harmony is the one given the most focus in the spring stories, particularly this one. You will notice how Pikkon frequently talks about being in and out of harmony with the universe in this story; that is a specific example of me using the tea ceremony aesthetics in this story.
- The wind physically affects Pikkon, which is me playing a bit with this idea that he's dead. Pikkon is really at this crossroads between life and death, and what defines the line between life and death, existence and non-existence, is a major theme of this story.
- Pikkon struggling to sense power levels is a result of him being in Other World for so long. It's not so much that he can't detect power levels themselves (I'm sure he could detect the levels of the warriors in Other World, for example), but the fact that it's living beings attached to those power levels out in the universe. Life has a different feeling from death, and Pikkon has grown accustomed to what death is like. And yet, the "death" that he's so used to is still a form of existence, in the Dragon Ball universe.
- "I wasn’t meant to come back." - Pikkon has thoughts like these throughout the story, questioning whether he should even have left Other World. He feels out-of-place. He's alone, physically, spiritually, and mentally.
- Pikkon having a hard time adjusting to the universe is like how Goku struggled to maintain his Super Saiyan 3 form in the Majin Buu arc of Dragon Ball Z. Goku could maintain the form much easier in Other World, and that same concept applies to Pikkon's mental and physical states-of-being here. Remember, Pikkon has been in Other World for far longer than Goku (potentially hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of years - we don't really know), so the effects of the universe on him are more acute than they were on Goku.
- Pikkon's journey in this story is not to catch Babidi and Buu - that is incidental to his character growth. Sure, the plot is him returning those two to Other World, but given that he's so much stronger than them, there was no possibility for Babidi or Buu to put up much of a fight. To still have tension, to still have an arc in the story, I instead turned the focus towards Pikkon's character growth. Character growth is a hallmark of my one-shots in general, so that felt like a natural turn. It also makes the weight of the plot interesting, since it's so clearly not as important to Pikkon as his own growth. That was intentional on my part, but also, the fact that the plot is portrayed as Pikkon hunting something down, reflects his own character growth as well.
- I thought it would be interesting to explore Pikkon's abilities returning to him, his sense of self in the universe returning. But he's not the same man he was when he was killed, so even though those aspects (such as being able to sense living beings) are returning to him, they don't feel right. And that's where so much of his inharmonic feelings come from. He's in the wrong reality; someone like him shouldn't be where he is. I don't think Yemma or Pikkon understood that before he was sent on his mission.
- The reason why he doesn't sense Buu is because Buu is trapped inside his ball (which occurred at the end of In Requiem) and Buu's power level by this point is 11 or so, making it almost imperceptible compared to Babidi (who himself isn't that strong, but still).
- "One pulse, not two, he thought. Babidi, and no Buu." - this line is rather poetic, a result of me coming up with it in the middle of the night about nine days before I wrote the rest of the chapter. I think some of the best prose I come up with comes to me late at night when I'm exhausted, but I don't know why that is.
- It's a trend in my stories in this collection, and perhaps in my one-shots in general for me to have one short scene followed by an extended scene to finish off the one-shot. Not all of my one-shots are like this (not even all of them in this collection), but it is something that happens more frequently than is coincidence. As to why I naturally structure stories like this, I cannot say.
- Notice how much Pikkon is trying to re-harmonize his body and energy with the living world. He's trying, and it's not working. This story may have had a much different outcome had his harmonization attempts worked at the end of the first scene.
- The second scene opens with a classic theme in my stories: what's the difference between a hero and a villain? From Pikkon's perspective, he's thinking of what Babidi would see him as, and what Yemma would see him as. He's also thinking about what his own people would think of him now, though that comes up more prominently later on. I like his determination that he may be neither - several other characters of mine, such as Ledas, or Grandpa Gohan in Ain't No Hero, have similar philosophies.
- So one of the hardest parts of writing this story was coming up with Pikkon's backstory. I decided upon only showing flashes and hints of his backstory, as I came to the conclusion that he himself would remember only fragments of his past, and he doesn't think that he's the same person that he once anymore, so those memories might be pointless. This part of the story is an example of a part that is influenced by Japanese aesthetics, such as wabi-sabi and mono no aware. It was not important to really delve into what or who killed him. Rather, drawing the contrast between the Pikkon of this story and the Pikkon of the distant past was more important. Visceral memories of his past life were carefully added into provide a more complete sensory experience as well as to give hints of his past. But I didn't want to get too specific.
- "He remembered remembering his memories a thousand times over until all that remained was an echo of an echo of a voice that could no longer speak." - I found this line rather beautiful in my re-read; I think it was inspired by something I read a while back that stated that you never actually remember memories, you just remember remembering them, and as time goes on, this provides for memory distortion. Pikkon's change from a classical hero (in his own mind) to a more grey, apathetic character mimics the degradation of memories. But again, as they are degraded, they are portrayed vividly in brief flashes, reflecting appreciation of passing, imperfect beauty - a hallmark of Japanese aesthetics.
- The waves crashing against the desolate shore is an image that was inspired by a short semi-autobiographical story about a soldier in Vietnam I read a year ago at least for school. I don't remember the name of it, but in that story, after the soldier came home, he stood on a beach (where he and his girlfriend had once walked), the waves lapping at his boots. He was standing in between the water and sand, where the water met the sand. The image reflected how he emotionally felt in limbo and out-of-touch with the rest of society. I don't have the same exact thematic stuff going on in my story, though.
- The ruins are a mystery in this story. Did Babidi destroy the natives, or were they destroyed by something else, a long time ago? I specifically don't answer that question, as the ambiguity of it, as well as the beauty of those ruins, are important thematically and tonally for this story. Also, at least for me, the way they are described is just really cool.
- Pikkon's footsteps imprinting in the sand is an example of a cool little thematic thing (related to existentialism) that I improvised as I was writing. I never planned on mentioning it until I did. And then the idea that the waves will come in and wipe the footprints away is a good metaphor for life itself, a concept Pikkon is struggling with.
- Pikkon hasn't thought about his death in a while. Perhaps this is because he's been dead for a while, or he's burying that pain, or perhaps both (or neither). I can't say. Anyways, it's no accident that as this is mentioned, so too are Pikkon's demons mentioned: the dark shapes in his mind that are formless and sinister and too powerful to forget. And then when they blur into reality, where Pikkon really sees dark shapes moving around him in the near darkness, that transition has several different purposes, but I can't say what they are. One thing I can say though is that this idea of the real and the unreal mixing is important, as is the idea of blurring states-of-being and stuff like that (what is dead, what is alive, and all that stuff is not so clear to Pikkon).
- The half-sunk rocks in the sand mimic a zen garden. They also act as a subtle nod to the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poem that has had a consistent and profound effect on my writings.
- So my description of the beach has several uses. For one, it immerses the reader in the alien world. I tried to make the world cool and alien and mysterious and all that stuff. And of course, the descriptions are somber, imperfect, crumbling, and melancholic, which reflect the aesthetic direction of this story, aiding it tonally.
- "Why did Babidi come here? What was he hoping to accomplish?" - this line of thought is something I bring up, for I know readers would wonder what Babidi's endgame is. From Pikkon's point-of-view, which is certainly not omniscient, these kinds of questions cannot get answered unless Babidi tells him, and I figured that it would be out-of-character for Babidi to tell him, so Pikkon never learns the answer to this. This idea that there are mysteries out there, that you are not completely in control, is something very important to Pikkon as he goes through his character arc.
- I never expected to use Babidi as Pikkon's foil until I began writing this story. But it became immediately apparent that Babidi's escape would be alluring to Pikkon, or at least intriguing. He could be like Babidi if he wanted, and he had more agency than that wizard. So that becomes his true struggle: should he stay, or should he go? His inharmonic emotions and his primal desires to return to the world of the living are tugging at him in opposite directions. Babidi and his plot is just a vehicle for Pikkon to experience this struggle.
- Notice that Pikkon draws a contrast between the appearances of the shore and the beach, and he assigns them adjectives that are not wholly descriptive. "Austere" for example is an opinion-based observation of the shore - not something that is fact. Pikkon's observations reveal his state-of-mind and aspects of his personality.
- Notice that the wind only seems to come up in times of uncertainty or lack of agency for Pikkon. This reoccurring motif is in the story at least three times.
- I've never really written a horror story, but tons of my stories have had elements of horror. This is one of those instances. The monstrous creation that Pikkon finds also serves to act as a question about what is truly alive. Pikkon couldn't sense it. Was it alive? He killed it, so that must have meant something, right? But if Babidi could create life, doesn't that mean that there's something worthwhile about him? He can't just be an evil wizard. He's like a god, playing with life as one would play with food.
- The aesthetic use of the waves going in and out comes from a lyric in the song I Might Be Wrong by Radiohead. I used this song to similar thematic effect in Dragon Ball Z: The Forgotten. Anyways, the lyrics "the waves go out/come in again" have been sung in live versions of that song, but I'm still not sure if they are in the studio version. Regardless, those lyrics are very powerful, and they have influenced me here.
- The themes of fading from existence and being forgotten, brought up by a canon event that took place in Dragon Ball Z, are themes that I often employ in stories of mine. The fact that they were brought up because of a canon event was rather clever, I think.
- Pikkon's desire to be remembered for his heroism is something I think most people crave, even if they don't think so. Humans - conscious living beings - want to be remembered somehow. The fact that Pikkon can't remember if his people remembered him is rather funny too.
- Pikkon reflecting on the absurdity of life in rather technical terms is me being influenced by a Biological Anthropology professor I had in the spring 2016 semester. The mixing of stark, scientific truths, with the more mysterious, spiritual, emotional aspects of being alive is one of the coolest parts of Pikkon's personality in this story, in my opinion.
- The images Pikkon remembers of his species running through the streets screaming, their flesh melting off their bodies, is influenced by images of Vietnamese civilians fleeing war during the Vietnam. This was a subconscious choice, not something I specifically planned to reference as I was writing.
- I forgot how much of a tease the memories were. It's a cool transition when Pikkon remembers what the monster looks like, but before he can confront it, he senses Babidi, which pulls him back into the world of the living.
- The sea trees and their floating offspring were added in mostly to make the world seem alien. I wanted to continue in the vein of Before Creation Comes Destruction with spending a good deal of time crafting an alien world that is both unique and memorable.
- Babidi's and Pikkon's conversation serves to show their different perspectives on life and death. Babidi is all emotion and desire; Pikkon is all duty and obedience.
- It is important to note that Babidi and Buu have killed billions, if not trillions of people. Babidi should not be a sympathetic character. Yet, his powerlessness, the way he whines, and his desire merely to "live" strikes an emotional chord with me. I think a part of that is how pathetically Babidi is portrayed. His previous creations were ugly and weak and Pikkon killed them easily. Here he is, cornered, pleading for his life. Even though he's a bad man, there's something in his pleas that resonates with me. I think those pleas also resonate with Pikkon, but he has great discipline. He buries his own emotions and desires and acts merely as a vessel for King Yemma, as much as he can. He's not very successful in terms of himself, for during the whole story, he's been on an emotional roller coaster. But Yemma only needs Babidi; to an extent, that means that Pikkon's own life doesn't matter, and that's the very reason that Pikkon lacks discipline as it relates to his own emotions and thoughts.
- "“I’m fine with how I am, thanks.”" - highly ironic quote. Pikkon won't let his vulnerabilities escape his mind; he won't let Babidi see how he's really feeling. As to why he's doing that, I'll leave that up to the readers to decide.
- Pikkon's threat is the natural progression of his emotional state. It's also not what he was supposed to do - Yemma would not have wanted this. While he hasn't allowed Babidi to see his vulnerabilities, the only reason why Pikkon would be so obsessed with the other demons' existence is because he himself is in an existential crisis.
- It is interesting that Pikkon notes that the universe is driven by death and decay. There can be no life without death. Other World is a stale state-of-being - existence without purpose. Pikkon sees the beauty in life. Things can only exist if their opposites also exist to define them; such is it with beauty and decay, and such is it with life and death.
- Pikkon's thought that every being has influenced the universe is again something my Biological Anthropology professor once said. While beings may not be remembered specifically, the sum of everything that has lived has changed the universe, perhaps, in most cases, in subtle ways, but it's all impacted the universe. Nothing that has lived has not had an impact, no matter how small.
- Pikkon understanding that he would never be like his old living self if he remained in the universe is a pivotal moment in his character development, and is basically what influences him to return to Yemma and not run off. He knows that things will never be the same; he will never be whole again if he stays in the universe. Babidi, in all his emotional delusions, has not yet realized that. Babidi's immaturity is a striking contrast to Pikkon's cynical, yet realistic outlook on life.
- Pikkon's statement that only death and disorder rule the universe are both true facts, despite how depressing they may seem.
- A heartbeat is a sign of life, of blood flowing.
- Pikkon flying towards the dawn is thematically important, significant to Pikkon's awakening and understanding of his position in life. It's also just a really beautiful, evocative moment. There have been several of those in this story, and that's something that continues throughout the rest of The Heels of the Unknown.
- I believe this is the only story in The Heels of the Unknown where the name of the story is in the actual text.
- "I’m not the man they think I am anymore." - I wrote this line when "Rocket Man" by Elton John was going to be the theme song of the next story (thus adding a little bond between the two stories). "Rocket Man" never became I'm a Candy Man's theme song, but the phrase works well enough here. Pikkon's journey from cliche superhero to a grey character, brooding and philosophical and aesthetic in his appreciation of life and death, is greatly influenced by my own world view. And it's just a really cool transformation, too. Not too many universes can deal with death like this at all, and that's one of the reasons I really love Dragon Ball.
- Pikkon's journey at the start of the story is to capture Babidi and Buu and find harmony with the universe. In the end, that harmony occurs with himself, not with the rest of the universe. It's a strikingly personal moment for Pikkon, though the full scope of what that means to him is left open for the readers to figure out.
- I never had Majin Buu appear in this story because I felt like his arc was completed in In Requiem. It didn't make sense to bring him out of the ball again. In regards to Kid Buu, I don't think there was anything I could have added here that was not already said in IR.
- This story is certainly more philosophical and spiritually-complicated than the rest of The Heels of the Unknown. I find it interesting to go back and read these stories and see what my mindset was at the time of writing this story. There's elements of biological truths, nihilism, aesthetic appreciation, hedonism, and humanism intermixed to varying degrees. My mind in April 2016 is on full display as I re-read this story now, and I'm quite surprised that this is how it turned out. It's cool, and definitely not something I remember trying to do consciously. Certainly though, the one-shots going forward do not get so philosophical, at least overtly. It is refreshing to see a story like this.
I like this story more than I remember liking it when I originally wrote it. It's a really cool way to do the In Requiem epilogue. Pikkon's emotional growth and his spiritual issues were unique and scratched me just where I itched. I loved the aesthetics of this story, from the rocky shore to the lightning flashing over the midnight waters where tendril-like trees grew. Really entertaining stuff. The resolution of the IR plot points mingled with Pikkon's character arc shows a level of sophistication that I don't see in my earlier works. Also, comparing how this story is written to how In Requiem is written is interesting and shows, to certain extents, how I have grown as an writer (in my own view). Overall, I'd give A Shadow on the Wind an S-.
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Part 59 ---->