I had the idea for this story long before I came up with The Heels of the Unknown. In fact, it was a consideration for Things Were Better Then, although never a very serious one, as I didn't want too many major fanon characters in that collection. I also considered releasing this as a standalone story before coming up with THOTU. However, I always thought this would be a one-shot.
After I got the idea for The Heels of the Unknown, this story became an immediate member of that collection. I placed it in winter because it's a sad tale that doesn't have a happy ending and that, I believe, evokes the starkness and bitterness of winter well. It was paired with Ledas' story early on mostly because I feel that Ledas and his mother sharing a season is just really cool. There are other reasons Ledas' story deserved to be in the winter binary over summer or autumn (it wouldn't work as a spring story whatsoever), but I'll get more into that in the next anthology.
The original description for Cyleria's story was: "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.". I didn't entirely follow this description, but the basic setup is the same. I think this is a good story to compare to the description I wrote for it, because I wrote most of the THOTU descriptions on August 15, 2015 - months (in this case, almost a year) before the stories were written. A lot changes in those months, and when I have a working outline, I am able to develop things more. This occurred with both the Saiyan team and the PTO team, as well as Cyleria's characterization, primarily in the opening scene of Black Dawn.
I did extensive character building before starting this story. I wanted each character to be fleshed out, to have a unique personality and fate, and to seem real. For this, I created a doc with some cursory personality traits for everyone. Most of what I thought about them was contained in my mind, and the outline was merely a tool to help me remember what I wanted to do with everyone. The outline is as follows, and it also contains all of the name puns for the characters:
Saiyan team: 1. Kolhrai --- (Kohlrabi) leader, reserved, elite, refined 2. Cyleria --- (Celery) second in command, stronger than Kolhrai 3. Araegon --- (Tarragon) guy who is reserved, expert cqc fighter, lusts for Cyleria 4. Namizu --- (Mizuna) crazy girl who loves explosives 5. Rutach --- (Rutabaga) fat tall guy who dies of heart attack Attacking team: 1. Ajira--- confident female shark alien, powerful 2. Habaro & Anero --- tall/short combo alien (golden for one/white for the other) 3. Jalipek --- brutal alien
Notice that I didn't put anything in for Cyleria, since I already know her character and I thought that would just be a waste of time. Some personality traits were not actually used, such as Araegon being reserved, for Kolhrai was also had a reserved personality. One of the things that changed between the original concept of this story and the actual story that was produced is that I fleshed out the PTO team significantly. Originally, Zarbon was going to attack them himself with a few nameless sycophants like the team Dodoria uses in the Bardock special to attack Bardock's team. I decided to make these characters more important, because if Zarbon appeared, he would have taken out all of the Saiyans in a matter of seconds. To not have that happen, I needed to have other characters be important.
Ajira's team is kind of like a serious Ginyu Force, although I'd liken them more to Cui and Appule and people like that with Frieza. They are more professional than the mercs, and they relish in the fact that they know what happened to Planet Vegeta when Cyleria and her team do not. Habaro and Anero were a bit of a DBZ trope of having two twin warriors (think Abo and Kado, or Rasin and Lakasei.
In terms of the Saiyans, Kolhrai was largely based on the character Minh Young Kim from the Gears of War series. He is also meant to look like Kim. I like Kim a lot. He's professional, not cocky, smart, and caring about his team. Kolhrai is very much the same, and this is especially seen when he sacrifices himself.
Rutabach was an unseen character who I have die before the team's last mission for a variety of reasons. There's foreshadowing there, there's a bit of superstition involved with him dying, and his death also drops the team one member so they have only 4. I based the Saiyan team off of Bardock's team, which had five members as well, but I didn't want to have to deal with five living Saiyans, as that was a bit too much. Also, in the original draft, his name was "Rutach" (as seen above), but I changed that when I first wrote his name in the doc as I was writing the story. "Rutach" doesn't look right, so I added a syllable.
You'll notice that Nazumi was named "Namizu" in the above outline. I changed her name just before beginning to write. I think Nazumi is a much better name. Anyways, in terms of who she is based on, Edward from Cowboy Bebop comes to mind, although Ed was never a pyromaniac to the extent Nazumi is. She's probably a meshing of several characters/archetypes in my mind that I can't hope to elaborate on any further. But yeah, Ed is the only character who comes to mind as being an influence on Nazumi. Her being a pyromaniac and just crazy in general was me playing up her destructive Saiyan tendencies as well as offering up a unique personality in this group.
Araegon was originally created primarily to be a love interest for Cyleria, working in tension with her relationship with her mate, Layeeck. Araegon lusts for her, I think. I don't believe he actually loves Cyleria. Cyleria doesn't really like him, although she has feelings for him because they are on the same team. Those feelings are not romantic, however. He's a bit of a tragic figure, I think, as are most of the Saiyans on the team, but Araegon definitely has an added sense of sadness around his character, particularly with how he dies. Cyleria feels guilt for not loving him, but I don't think that makes her love him. Rather, she is sad that she could not love him. Even if she didn't have Layeeck, I'm not sure she would have ended up with him.
So for the plot, almost all of it was improvised. I got ideas in my mind as the months and weeks went on, after coming up with THOTU, and certain things, like the weather motifs and Cyleria's inner monologues, were influenced and shaped a bit by my earlier stories in the collection. The first scene was an idea I came up with pretty late in the process, after I decided that Rutabach would die off-screen of a heart attack. The progression of the battle was not really planned out beforehand, other than Cyleria would be the last one left and Zarbon would eventually kill her. I expected that everyone else would die, but as it turned out, Ajira also survived. She is later brought to justice in volume III of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization (KV note: as of writing this commentary, I haven't written that chapter yet) when she has an encounter with Majin Sesami and Ledas much further in the future. However, Ledas does not know Ajira's role in his mother's death when he ultimately kills her.
When I was preparing stuff for THOTU, everything for this story came naturally and quickly. The name was one of the first names I came up with. I had its placement and its description written very early in the process. I had its flower and Japanese scroll picked out early on as well. As well, its first theme song, which I'll talk about more below, was one of the first theme songs chosen, and I almost kept it as the final theme. This was never a story that I struggled with conceptually. The problem was always one of length. As I figured out more and more of what I wanted to accomplish with Black Dawn, I began to realize that it would be very long. At one point, I expected it to reach 15,000 words, which would be an insane length for a one-shot. When I was writing it, the sections actually ended up being shorter than I expected, and Black Dawn was completed at just north of 8000 words. It is my longest one-shot, but it's not nearly as long as I expected it to be. This is also what happened with Cool Cat, although I never expected that one to be anywhere near as long as I expected this story to be.
So in terms of writing, I began Black Dawn on June 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm. I finished the first section at 6:15 pm. I then edited that section from 8:17 am to 9:20 am on June 16. From 11:09 am to 4:07 pm, I wrote up to about 1/3 of the way through the third scene. I took many breaks in that time frame though. I next edited the second scene and what was written of the third scene on June 18 from 3:56 pm to 5:29 pm. I continued writing the third scene at 9:43 pm, finishing it, as well as the fourth scene, at 11:45 pm of the same day. I then edited the remaining 2/3 of the third scene and the fourth scene from 11:48 pm on June 18 to 1:42 am on June 19. Notably, I edited the last two sections immediately after finishing writing them - a rarity for my style. I usually take an extended break after writing before returning to edit, but in this case, I was ready to be done with the story. As well, I had been writing The Great Sushi-Eating Contest in tandem with this story, so I wanted to release both of them at the same time. Ledas' story was actually completed before Black Dawn, and part of the reason that it took me so long to write Black Dawn is because I was also writing Ledas' story on the same days as I was writing this one. I was highly productive from June 15 to the early hours of June 19. I wrote both of these stories together, often alternating between them when I get stuck on one. That is also why I didn't write Black Dawn at all on June 17, for I was working heavily on the Sushi story on that day. Either way, I finished them both around the same time and was able to post the mother and son stories together to finish The Heels of the Unknown in the early hours of June 19.
I'm not going to lie. It was a grueling process. This was one of the hardest stories for me to write, and it's also quite an emotional story, I think. It's very sad. There's so much lost potential with Ledas' younger sibling dying in Cyleria's womb, as well as Cyleria herself dying, and her whole team dying too. The tragedy of the Saiyan race being exterminated was something I was trying to capture in this story by showing it from a very personal perspective. We focus in on a few Saiyans here to understand the total destruction of their species and culture. That's why there were conversations about the last Legendary Super Saiyan and why I also focused on the destruction of the Saiyans on the natives of the planet.
Saiyans aren't good people in general - they are ruthless genocidal barbarians. But there are good ones in the bunch, and I think, even as they are, how they are is more a matter of culture than them being generally evil. Bardock's team is like this in his special - they massacre the Kanassans, yet we still feel something for them. They are people with fleshed out personalities who are killed in a great injustice. In a way, it's a poetic end to their lives (which is also true for this story's Saiyan team), but I don't think that makes their existence any less tragic. This story deals with the ideas of good and evil, or rather, the lack of that being a useful descriptor of people, more so than in any other THOTU story. That's why the concept of "清", or purity is associated with this story. There's irony, as there is with "respect" being the concept for the Bojack and Super Handel stories. There is purity in this story, though. Cyleria's happiness is pure; her desire to live with her family, to raise her kids, and to get out of the warrior's life, is also pure, I think. The tragedy is that her purity is tainted by others and that her dreams go unfulfilled.
The original theme song for this story was "The Numbers" by Radiohead, which was originally called "Silent Spring". Specifically, I wanted to use this live performance of the song. I had picked that out before Radiohead's newest album released, which had the song on it. It's a good song that's lyrically related to the PTO's subversion of the Saiyan race and also foreshadows the collapse of the PTO and the semi-rise of the Saiyans in the future. But I don't know, it just didn't work well enough. I eventually ended up using a live performance of Bodysnatchers by Radiohead, which I felt had more thematic resonance with this story. The guitar especially in that song reminds me of winter storms. This is a great, underrated Radiohead track, and one that I had grown very fond of around the time I wrote this story.
So yeah, that's all I can think of for this section. Now it's time to dissect the the longest one-shot I've ever written (so far)!
The light was fading. Pale fire suffused the sky as snowflakes danced below. The royal city was being ravaged by a snowstorm. Cyleria shivered. I can’t remember the last time it was this cold. Still, there was a certain charm to it all, especially in its starkness. Cyleria loved the city at night. There’s almost no one around. Everything’s so peaceful, like it’s dead. Below, in the snow-sodden streets, aliens and Saiyans moved frantically to escape the impending freeze. The city was almost empty; everyone had gone inside, where they belonged. Golden coruscations cascaded down the skyscrapers, forming staircases of light. She tried to find her home among them, where her mate and her boy would be eating dinner about now. I should go back and say goodbye.
If only she’d had the time.
Dutifully, Cyleria stretched out in her black undersuit. In the dying light, her scouter shimmered ultramarine, staring at her solemnly. I should just go home. They won’t need me. I’d rather be with my son. Standing, her mind turned to Ledas, and pride welled in her throat when she thought of how powerful her son had become. He’s already surpassed us. He’s the Prince’s training partner. He’ll do great things when he grows up. She pulled open her locker, which gave a grumbling squeak at the sharpness of that maneuver, and took out her armor: a shoulderless, slender chestpiece, purple on black; chipped skirt guards of the same coloring; armored black boots; and purple arm and leg warmers. She usually only wore a thin strip of purple cloth around her chest, to keep her breasts in place underneath the armor (though Cyleria wore long lavender training pants), so when the far door opened and Araegon entered, he found her bare from the chest up, preparing the rest of her armor.
“Close the door,” she said, shivering. But she did not cover herself. Cyleria had already put her boots, pants, and leg warmers on; she still needed to get her undershirt, arm warmers, chestpiece, and scouter on. He’ll enjoy the show, she reflected, looking up at the thick-jawed Saiyan. He always wanted a look at these. She stood there confidently, her small breasts pointing outwards, their nipples erect. She was not afraid of this one.
Araegon stared so long he almost made her blush. He still wants me. “We’re leaving. Are you ready?” he finally asked, his voice breaking. “Kolhrai wants everyone to meet him on the launching pad. We can’t be late.”
“I’ll be there in a moment.”
He nodded awkwardly and went to leave. He’s gone red, she noticed. That’s not the only part of him that’s changed, she noted, looking down at his pants. “So, uh… Cyleria,” Araegon grunted, “d-do you…”
“Leave me. I need to get dressed.” Araegon’s eyes widened and he mumbled something apologetic. “Let’s get this mission over with. I know we both want to get back home to our families. Your daughter just turned two, didn’t she? Or was it three?”
“Two,” Araegon replied, his head bowed. There was sadness in his voice, like a snowflake that had survived till spring. With that, he left.
Reaching for her undershirt, Cyleria was surprised to find it being held by another. Looking up, she saw Layeeck, her mate. He stood to the left of her, her undershirt firmly grasped in his left hand, the muscles of his arm taut and firm. Of course. He was wearing his most splendid attire, black on red armor with a long crimson cape. He just got off guard duty. Letting her hand fall, Cyleria sighed. “How long have you been here?”
“Long enough.” There was a knowing look in Layeeck’s face that scratched at the back of Cyleria’s eyes. He wrapped the cloth around her breasts and leaned in for a kiss. Though she was surprised by his sudden warmness, Cyleria returned the affection. She liked the feeling of his beard against her soft flesh; even more, she liked how clean he tasted. She’d missed him. Why is he coming back to me now?
Pulling away, Cyleria twisted her chestpiece over her head and down onto her thin frame. “How’s Ledas?”
“Good. Getting better.” Layeeck’s voice was rushed, distracted. He doesn’t want to talk about this. “Been going on more missions for Frieza.”
“With the prince?” Layeeck nodded. “That’s good. He’s going to be really powerful when he’s older, if this continues.”
Layeeck’s eyes were sullen and sunken, like ancient, burned-out suns. “Yeah, I guess…”
“Come on, Layeeck…” Cyleria whispered, guiding her hand against his cheek. It had been weeks since they had been together, and almost a year since she had been on the planet for more than a few days. Everything felt new again to Cyleria. She could see the seeds of her old life before her, and it took all of her restraint not to give in. “Are you really that worried about how powerful he’s becoming?”
Layeeck turned away. So prideful. He hasn’t changed. “When will you be back?” he asked, stiffly.
“Layeeck, come on.” Cyleria grabbed his shoulder pauldron and spun her mate around. “Seriously, are you going to be like this from now on?”
“Who cares if he’s stronger than you? Isn’t that what you wanted?”
He nodded dully. “I-I… well, I didn’t think it would happen this fast. He’s only four, Cyleria.”
“You should be proud,” she replied, defiance thick in her voice. “We made that little devil.”
“You would be just as strong as him had you been born four years ago. Think about training in gravity units as a kid! And being able to spar with the strongest Saiyans in the world every day! And what about having all of our best battle instructors there to guide you?! Ledas has all of these tools at his disposal because we defeated the Tuffles.”
Layeeck’s grey eyes flashed. Is he getting nostalgic? That would be just like Layeeck. Walking over to the window, he said, “I get your point.”
“Good. Don’t be moping around our son. It won’t be good for him.”
“As you command.”
“Don’t be like that, Layeeck. This isn’t going to–”
“What do you think about having more?” he asked suddenly, his back still to her.
She was taken aback. It took him years to convince me to have Ledas with him. And now it looks like I love our son more than he does. She tried to shake that thought from her mind. Layeeck’s just depressed that Ledas has surpassed him. But why does he want more kids? “How many more?”
“Two or three?”
Layeeck faced her, and his grin looked rather robust in the light of sunset. “What, can’t handle that much?”
Cyleria frowned. “I can. But I think we’ll have to wait a little while longer before we try again.”
“I’ll tell you when I get back.”
Cyleria yawned. She was not looking forward to going on another mission. I’d rather just settle down and spend my days with Ledas and the newborn. But that couldn’t happen. She was on a team; she had obligations. Cyleria was not one to break her oaths. “Send my love to Ledas.”
“I will,” Layeeck sighed. “I thought you’d be done by now. You’ve been on missions almost nonstop for the past year.”
“I know. This is the last one. After this, I’m done. I’ll tell them. Kolhrai will have to find a replacement for me.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“I’ll see you around, Layeeck.”
“See you around, girl.”
She left her mate in that room, racing off towards the launching pad. Cyleria hated the cold. She wasn’t built for it. Even a few moments out in the open air caused her body to descend into shivering fits enough to make it difficult to walk. When she found the three huddled around a group of pods, snow on all sides of them, a fire burning from the ki blast between Kolhrai’s hands, Cyleria nearly wept with delight. They have the right idea.
“Took you long enough,” Nazumi squealed. A tiny female Saiyan with burn marks covering her arms and face, Nazumi was not someone Cyleria liked to talk to, much less look at. She had turned many of them into blue-red tattoos, depicting battles and the greatest foes she’d blown up, giving her a ferocious appearance. Half her teeth were missing, and her hair had been burnt away, leaving only a half-inch of dark hair covering her scalp like freshly-cut grass. She was sitting up against her pod making little ki explosions between her hands as sport. “We almost froze out here!”
“Shame,” Cyleria said carelessly. Finding Kolhrai, she asked, “So where’s this planet Frieza wants? And how long will it take us?” I won’t tell him now. Better to wait until after we’ve cleared the planet.
“Rutabach’s dead,” the commander replied softly. He never looked at her. He was a lean Saiyan, not too tall and not too stout. He shaved his head and wore a crescent-shaped scar under his eye from the first day he and Cyleria had met. “Heart attack. Happened about an hour ago.”
That’s a terrible omen, Cyleria knew. We should postpone this mission. “Wh-what do we do now?” was all she could bring herself to say. The tears came without warning, stinging her eyes in the cold. She hadn’t known Rutabach long – only six months or so, since she had been transferred to this team – but he had become a member of her family over these past months. She had fought with him, bled with him, killed with him… it wasn’t fair that he didn’t get to go out in a blaze of glory on the battlefield.
“We go on,” Kolhrai stated plainly. “Frieza needs his planet, and we don’t have time to find a replacement. So we’ll go as four. We’ll manage.”
“We’ll do this one just as fast,” Araegon proclaimed. “For Rutabach!”
They all joined in the cheer, but their voices were small and melancholic that night, Cyleria thought. It’s an ill omen, she told herself again. But we can’t disappoint Lord Frieza. She exchanged a glance with Araegon. He only sees my breasts. He wants to suck on them. She wrinkled her face in disgust, imagining Araegon’s fat yellow mouth wrapped around one of her nipples, working at it like a starved babe. Why couldn’t he have had a heart attack instead of Rutabach?
Like phantoms they stretched, gliding across the cold to their pods. They spoke no more of Rutabach, and Cyleria knew they would never bring him up again except in times of remembrance or as a battle cry. That’s what it means to be a Saiyan. We bury things deep inside us. Her pod hummed to life and shot into the veiled sky; the artificial warmth from the heater inside made the woman groan with pleasure. Cyleria patted her stomach. I wonder if this one will be a boy or a girl.
As far as the eye could see, mountains and snow and fog blanketed the lands. Power readings were faint and sparse; there were few natives on this world. That, or they’re all incredibly weak. Cyleria was not dressed for the cold, and as soon as she found herself outside of her pod, she realized the folly of her attire. This is going to be a long trip. Kicking up snow and silently fuming, she found the others, standing and kneeling on the side of a snowy cliff, overlooking a valley in the mountains. Below, a city lay nestled under fat puffs of fog. It was not a large city, and none of its buildings were particularly high. They were all branching together, like trees, honeycombed and angular. The color of these buildings was weird too: all salmon and sapphire. A radiant light seemed to emanate from the buildings.
“Low readings.” Kolhrai was pacing, his brow furrowed. “We’ll split up. It’ll go faster that way. Don’t transform unless you have to.”
Nazumi giggled and created two carmine-flecked azure energy blasts in her hands. “Before we go, let’s rock their world, heh! I wanna have some fun! Whaddya say we make this miserable town a little prettier?!” Kolhrai sighed, but he motioned with his head for everyone to go ahead and destroy the city. Guffawing, the woman released her energy upon the cozy dwellings below.
Soon it was Cyleria and Araegon joining in the fun, raining beams and balls of ki down upon the town with all their fury. When the dust settled, Nazumi led the way, and the group jumped down into the wreckage. Fog drifted across the ruined streets; fires burned, collapsing buildings and melting snow; screams wafted through the air, and with them, the natives. They were small, like fetuses riding curved blue flowers across the wind. When they saw the Saiyans, the survivors shouted in high-pitched clicks that Cyleria knew was language. They’re sentient, at least. They understand what we’re doing to them. Nazumi burned them all the same. The way they caught fire, exploded, and fell as smoldering wrecks onto the snowy ground stirred something in Cyleria.
“Are you happy now?” Kolhrai asked the others.
“I’m spent,” replied Nazumi.
“Take your marks, spread across the planet,” the commander continued, ignoring her. “Remain in contact with your scouters.”
“What if we split up in groups of two?” Araegon asked. He’s persistent, I’ll give him that.
Kolhrai shook his head. “Thank you for the suggestion, soldier, but we’re not doing that. Splitting up into four will make this go much faster. Besides, no one on this world has a power level above 10…”
Araegon shrugged. “It’s cold and boring out here, I just thought…”
“Enough.” Kolhrai turned away from the taller man to look out over the devastation. “ I don’t want us to use power balls unless we–”
The sound of the ship entering the atmosphere shook them. Cyleria could feel it in her bones. What are they doing here? The ship was painted in familiar patterns, of white and black and gold. Planet Trade Organization, just like us. A snowflake touched her shoulder and she shivered. Around her, the others stood, their arms crossed, their teeth grit, tension running through them like electricity. All she could feel was the cold.
“Form up,” Kolhrai ordered, and the group took to the sky. With keen celerity they cut through the fog, chasing after the mysterious ship. “Hailing,” the man said, holding his hand against his scouter. “No response. They must be using another frequency.”
They found the ship at rest between two rocky peaks, and out from it streamed a host of aliens from a dozen different races. Fat, short, tall, skinny, egg-headed, pin-headed, horned, furry, rat-faced, and four-armed creatures were they, their skin and fur every color imaginable. It’s like I’m looking at a rainbow, Cyleria thought. What are they doing here?
Landing hard in the snow, the Saiyans approached the aliens. “This planet is currently being cleared by my team,” Kolhrai said in greeting. “Why have you come here?”
“Saiyans?!” a blue-skinned alien hissed.
“Saiyans! Look at ‘em, boys! You won’t see monkeys like this again, hahaha!”
The others laughed. The wind howled. Cyleria exchanged a look with Nazumi. Is this a dream? Why isn’t anything making sense? Something felt wrong in the air; Cyleria had a bad taste in her mouth.
“We were assigned to this planet by Lord Frieza himself,” Kolhrai continued, remaining as patient as ever. “If you think there’s a misunderstanding, take it up with him. We are going to clear the rest of this planet.”
“Oh, you ain’t,” a green-skinned alien with black curled horns cackled. “You’re dead in the water, monkey.”
“Is that a threat?!” roared Araegon, jumping forward, blue-white energy forming in his fist.
“Not a threat,” the alien countered, “just an observation, monkey. You wanna live, get outta here.”
“Aye,” a tall furry beast replied slowly. “They’re comin’ for ya.”
“Who?” Kolhrai seemed unafraid.
The aliens just laughed at that. “This ain’t your planet no more,” the horned warrior said. “Leave before this becomes your grave.”
A look of annoyance spread across Kolhrai’s face as he turned back to the rest of the group. “Let’s blow ‘em up,” Nazumi urged. “Come on, I wanna see how colorful their insides are!”
“No,” Kolhrai said, his head bowed in thought. “We should contact King Vegeta. See what he thinks about this.”
“You don’t get it!” the green-skinned alien shouted. “There ain’t no place for Saiyans no more! You’re kind’s finished! It’s over!”
This time it was Cyleria who stepped forward. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Wait and see, monkey.”
Cyleria looked at Kolhrai, who shook his head and returned to his scouter. But suddenly, the weight of what those creatures had said hit Cyleria, and her blood ran hot. How dare they speak to me like that. How dare those fools insult my race. She exchanged a look with Araegon and Nazumi. They were with her, even if Kolhrai was not. That’s fine. I’m the strongest member of this group anyways.
“What did you just call me?” she asked the green-skinned alien.
He bared his teeth in laughter. They were brown with rot. “Monk–”
Cyleria teleported forward and rammed her fist into the alien’s throat, shattering the bones beneath. He coughed soundlessly, holding onto his neck and fell over, twitching. Looking up, Cyleria eyed the remaining soldiers. None above 1000. Two dozen of them. We can take them. “Anyone else want to call me a monkey?”
“Alright, monkey.” The voice came from behind them. Cruel it was, light and sharp – a woman’s voice, Cyleria knew. She stood seven feet tall, fins going down the back of her head and the sides of her forearms; there was a greater fin protruding out from her back. Her face was tight, pulled back; her skin was smooth and hairless, a deep shade of muddy blue, almost grey, with white stripes on her stomach, neck, and palms. Her eyes were red; her teeth white and long and sharp. She wore Planet Trade Organization armor, white on blue, a crimson scouter, and a cape of sharp cobalt.
“Who are you?” Kolhrai asked.
“I am Captain Ajira, fleet officer in Frieza’s empire. Zarbon told me there would be five of you,” she mused. “Where is your last member?”
“He died,” Cyleria said, folding her arms. What’s wrong with these aliens? They aren’t acting like they usually do. Something’s wrong.
“Shame,” the alien breathed. “I had hoped I could kill all five of you myself.”
Before anyone could react, Ajira produced a pink energy dagger in between her long fingers and shoved it in the shoulder of Kolhrai. The Saiyan grunted, falling to a knee. The way the world changed at that moment was like the feeling of blood rushing to one’s face. Araegon, Nazumi, and Cyleria fell into fighting poses, creating energy ready to throw, ready to kill. From behind, the petty soldiers barked and whooped and shouted jeers. I’ll kill them all if I have to.
“You don’t get it,” Ajira stated coldly. “My team was sent here to kill you. There are four of us, and four of you. Plus, I have all these nitwits behind you, should I need them.” The commotion of the soldiers drained to silence at once. “It’s hopeless, monkeys. We’re stronger than you. You will not be getting out of here alive.”
A flash of yellow light followed by an explosion rattled Ajira’s face. Her scouter smoked and fell into the snow. Kolhrai stood up. Damn arrogant fool. He was just like this when we first met. He refuses to die.
“Destroy their scouters,” Kolhrai said, not facing his party. “They’ll be lost without them. Then you can make your escape. They don’t know where our pods are.”
“Aye, sir,” Araegon said.
“Go!” Kolhrai’s voice was hoarse with pain.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Ajira noted. “My power level is at 6000. None of you can touch me. I decide who leaves and who stays.”
Kolhrai looked back at the group. Taking off his scouter, he gave each of them one last look, and then crushed the device between his white gloves. “Return to Planet Vegeta with this news. Tell the king of Zarbon’s treachery.”
Ajira chuckled mildly. “Heh, you really don’t know, do you? Alright. Go back to your homeworld. See what’s there waiting for you.” She dropped her dagger and created a larger ki sword, this one more blood than rose. “But first you have to get through me.”
“I’ll knock that stupid grin off your face,” Kolhrai countered. “You underestimate us, and for that you’ll die.”
The two stepped forward. Kolhrai screamed, creating a sun-bleached ki sword of his own, and the two charged at one another.
“The soldiers,” Cyleria whispered to the others, nudging them. “We have to take them out and destroy their scouters.”
“Where are the others?” Nazumi asked, cocking her head from side to side. “I wanna blow them up!”
“We’re lucky they aren’t here. Maybe they’re on their way. We have to move, now!”
They gathered their energy, and instead of focusing it on Captain Ajira, the three Saiyans turned their attention to the lackwit lackeys who had provoked them before. The dead one still lay like a fallen tree in the middle of the snow. His friends will be joining him sooner rather than later.
The aliens stood quivering. Cyleria focused her breathing. She had forgotten about the cold, and though she remembered it now, she did not feel it. Her blood was running too hot. The Saiyan called forth her energy, raising her power level to its maximum. I’m not even half as strong as that captain. But that was a problem for later. With a little luck, I won’t need to fight her at all.
Then they jumped into the fray, Araegon shouting ‘For Rutabach! Rutabach! Rutabach!’, Nazumi yelling madly, and all Cyleria could think about was her family: her little boy waiting for her back home, and her mate whom she hadn’t spent a night with in weeks.
The minions died easily. Cyleria punched them, incinerated them, kicked them, and humiliated them. All they could do to her was bathe her in their blood. It was much the same with the others, though Nazumi made a particular mess of things when she detonated the Planet Trade Organization ship and caused a spire of fire to flare into the sky, three miles tall. That’ll alert the other members of Ajira’s team where we are, if they haven’t already figured that out. Araegon made sure all of the scouters were destroyed, though he left the corpses – mostly just chunks of alien flesh drenched in blood of every color imaginable – to be buried by the snow. Cyleria wondered if that would come to pass, or if the planet would be destroyed before then. No. Frieza wanted to sell this one. It has value. Ajira came here to kill us. She would have destroyed the planet from orbit if she could have.
Looking back at the battle unfolding ahead, Cyleria was shocked to see that Kolhrai still stood against his foe. His power level is 2800. How has he not died yet? Yet, he was bloodied and wounded and covered in cuts. Neither had their ki swords out any longer, though Kolhrai bore the scars of Ajira’s blade across his body. She was unharmed – breathing a little hard, but otherwise undamaged.
Kolhrai shot a stream of yellow ki blasts at Ajira, but she brushed them aside with a single wave of the hand. The Saiyan commander gathered his ki around him and shot at her, trying to send a flying punch across the captain’s face, but she caught his arm, pulled it back, and snapped the bone. No!
“We have to help him!” Nazumi’s voice came distantly to Cyleria, who was standing there in the middle of the ruined city, a paralyzed spectator to the fight unfolding in the snow ahead. “Come on!”
Araegon and Nazumi ran past Cyleria. Kolhrai struggled against Ajira again, kicking wildly at her, rolling away and shooting an energy beam at her. All of his attacks seemed to bounce off of her. Walking up to him calmly, she grabbed the back of his skull and jerked his face into her fist. Blood splattered from his cracked nose and mouth. The man fell to his knees, staining the snow. Cyleria’s heart was pounding in her head: thump, thump, thump, thump… she couldn’t think. No. No, please. No…
A gust of wind touched Cyleria’s face and she shivered. No. I cannot be weak. I am in command now. “Nazumi! Araegon! Stop!” Her voice echoed across the desolate battlefield. The two froze. “Commander Kolhrai gave us an order. We are going to follow that order.”
“Bu-but…” Nazumi began.
“Form up! I won’t ask you again!”
They did what she asked. Into the air they went, flying away as fast as they could. And there behind them, Cyleria saw, looking over her shoulder, was the doughty commander. He told me he was in charge, so I hit him. I wanted to lead this team. But he was right… he was better for the job. Kolhrai had never held a grudge against her, and now the Saiyan warrior felt tears coming to her again. She had to fight them back. I’m in command now. I got my wish. I can’t be weak in front of the others.
Behind, Ajira slapped Kolhrai across the face and picked him up. Into his belly, she thrust a long red sword, alive with flames. Cyleria never heard Kolhrai scream. They were too far away now – now they were snowflakes being carried away on the wind. And on they would go, into the fog and cold and snow, until they were free again.
It was hard to breathe up in the mountains, where the cold winds blew and each breath seemed to fill one with a chest full of ice. There they waited; their pods were not far. As of yet, the three had their scouters, so that they could track the rebel Planet Trade Organization soldiers. The only reading they had gotten for the first few hours was that of Ajira’s. She was not boasting about her power level. If anything, she was being a bit modest. Yet, all of that changed a few hours later. Now there were three other readings: 2200, 2300, 2900. Those were Ajira’s soldiers, sent to hunt them down. I can take all of them, except maybe the last one.
“Do you think she was telling the truth?” Araegon asked, breaking Cyleria out of her thoughts.
“About our planet. She said it was destroyed.”
“Do you think something happened? Maybe that’s why Zarbon wanted to kill us.”
They can’t be gone. I won’t believe it. “No,” Cyleria said. “She was just trying to scare us.”
“All the Saiyans gone. Wow that’s heavy, man.” Nazumi’s voice was distant as she came walking over to the other two through the fog. “Hey you guys know I heard a rumor that the last Legendary Super Saiyan was a woman?” Nazumi said.
“Where’d you hear that?” the man asked her.
“My kid. He learned about it in his training dojo.”
“Well I’ve never heard anything like that.”
“Your kid’s teacher must be from Zhukin’s tribe,” Cyleria interjected. She did not look at them, instead keeping her eyes peeled on the surrounding area, scanning with her scouter for any signs of foes. “That’s a common belief in Zhukin’s tribe.”
“Aren’t you from Zhukin’s tribe too?” Nazumi asked.
“I was.” The sadness in Cyleria’s voice gave her shame. I need to be more careful. I can’t let them think I’m weak.
“He claimed to be the next Legendary Super Saiyan!” Araegon noted slyly. “But I don’t think he was!”
“He wasn’t. But he was descended from the last Super Saiyan. And she was a woman.” And no one can convince me otherwise.
“Funny, that.” Araegon scratched at the fuzz on his chin. “When I grew up, I learned about how the Legendary Super Saiyan was the most powerful bastard in the universe, but he ended up killing himself because he couldn’t control his power.”
“That’s not how it went,” Cyleria said calmly. “But most people think that, I’ve no doubt. I’m more inclined to believe her descendants than the descendants of those who stood against her.”
Araegon leaned back, frosting the air. “Well… ah, imagine that! A woman. The most powerful being in the universe! That’s crazy.” Nazumi and Cyleria gave him a dirty look. “H-hey?! What? It’s just… well, I’ve never heard of a female Legendary Super Saiyan before! I thought they were all men!”
The Last Legendary Super Saiyan’s tale is sad and old, Cyleria reflected. They wouldn’t want to hear it. “The victors get to tell history how they want to,” she reminded them. “Much has been spun about the last Legendary Super Saiyan that is not true.”
“I’d like to meet her. See if she knows any cool moves!” Nazumi pined.
“Yeah, I bet she’d like me,” Araegon boasted. “I’m a helluva looker.”
The two squabbled incessantly behind Cyleria when the she got a reading on her scouter. Not one… two. “They’re here,” she said, standing. The others joined her.
“All of ‘em?”
“No, just two. The weakest two.”
“We can take ‘em.”
“We must.” Cyleria cracked her neck. “I have an idea. You two will confront them.”
“And…?” Araegon’s eyes were filled with fear. “Then what?!”
“Then I come in from behind and blow their brains out while they’re not looking. Make sure you take out their scouters first.”
They were out in the cold like phantoms, not one of them shivering. They had discipline, at least. The winds were whipping snow and dust into the air, creating low visibility. Luckily, I still have my scouter. The aliens came racing towards the Saiyans under a snow-crusted overlook that was twisted and warped into a half-circle. Nazumi and Araegon stood confidently, awaiting their enemies. The two took the bait and came right over to them, staring the Saiyans down and shouting in energetic, helium-saturated voices.
Cyleria flew around them, circling high above like a hungry predator. The two aliens were squishy-looking, yellow-skinned with red spots, and quite lumpy. One was six feet tall; the other must have been half the taller one’s height. They had three eyes, oblong-shaped mouths, and no noses or ears or hair. Cyleria spotted a scouter on only one of the creatures – the short one – and wondered why the other didn’t have one.
As she circled, the exchanges below grew testy. Nazumi stepped forward and started hurling energy blasts at the two. Now it’s my turn, Cyleria thought in determination. She raced towards the big one, building up ki around her body. Just before she crashed into the alien, Cyleria felt something ram into her back and send her flying in a different direction. When she finally landed, tumbling in the snow, she found herself at the feet of Nazumi and Araegon. What happened? She grit her teeth, ignoring the pain and the numbness spreading across her body. Cyleria noticed a new creature had entered the fray: this one was tall – eight or nine feet tall – emerald-skinned, lizardly, hairless, with blue-red eyes and mandibles. He wore the same armor as the others. The same as us.
“Thinking of trying something sneaky?” the green-skinned one muttered, his breath frosting before him in icy explosions.
“Who are you?”
The new alien beat his chest.“The name’s Jalipek! And these are my friends, Habaro and Anero. We were sent by Zarbon to kill you.”
The green-skinned alien smiled and shook his head. “Choose!” came the high-pitched voice of either Habaro or Anero. “One fighter against one fighter! The ultimate test of fighting prowess!”
The Saiyans exchanged looks. They’re making a game of this. Why?
“I’ll go,” Araegon said. “I’m not afraid of that thing.”
“No!” Nazumi whined. “I called dibs. I called them five minutes ago! You heard me! Cyleria, you heard me too! Don’t pretend you didn’t!” The scarred girl glanced over at Cyleria hopefully, so she gave a nod of mild agreement. “Hmph!”
The three aliens all took out cans of hot sauce and proceeded to chug as much as they could without throwing up. Surprisingly, the the shortest alien won over the others. He squealed and kissed the sky and sludged his way forward. It was impressive because none of them needed water or milk afterwards. They must’ve just tasted some really spicy sauce, and they weren’t letting their burning mouths rule them. They want to look tough. That means they aren’t.
Ignoring Araegon’s chivalrous pleas, Nazumi stepped forward to face the shorter pudgy alien. We’ll call this one Anero. He moved like a slug and he was drooling, so excited was he to face Nazumi.
“I gave my scouter to Captain Ajira,” Habaro the Onlooker said gleefully. “She’s in contact with us, and she knows exactly what’s going on.”
“Once she’s completed the planet-clearing, she will join us. I only hope, for her sake, that one of you is still alive at that point. I’m sure she’d love to make the last Saiyans in the universe suffer as much as possible.”
“Get on with it,” Anero complained. “I wanna fight.”
“I wanna see what your insides look like,” Nazumi said sinisterly. “Come on fatty, let’s make you scream!”
They danced, like a couple of beings in sacred harmony, so stark and pure were their moves. This was all a game for the aliens. Nazumi let her anger guide her, and she lit up the sky, melting snow and shouting heedlessly. So desperately did she want to win.
The Saiyans’ only hope was to destroy these beings before Ajira arrived. It’s possible, but I’ll have to go next, and I can’t take my time. I have to kill them as quickly as possible. Nazumi didn’t have a sense of urgency about her. Though Cyleria shouted her way, ordering her to speed things up, the explosives expert didn’t listen. She danced around Anero, sometimes trading a few sloppy punches, but most teleporting around and exchanging ki attacks with her foe. They weren’t doing much damage to one another.
“Nazumi, finish him! We have to get out of here!”
Gritting her teeth, the near-bald woman creating two aquamarine balls of light in her hands and charged at Anero. Anero bounced into the air, dodging gracelessly and jiggling about like a pile of blubber. Frustration followed when Nazumi screamed and shot the first ball at the alien. The shot went through an afterimage, and downwards the two real fighters sailed, Nazumi after Anero. When Anero hit the ground, he sidestepped to the right. Nazumi impacted and fired her second energy ball wildly, not chancing to aim first. Anero did a front flip and when he slammed onto the ground, he hit that energy blast back at Nazumi, exploding it against her.
When the dust cleared, Nazumi stumbled towards her opponent, her skin charred black and cracked. She looked more than a little dazed. Yet in one of her hands, a shimmering white-pink energy blast was growing between her fingers. She looked over to the two Saiyans watching her. She knows this is it. Cyleria had feared as much, and now she knew. There was no time for emotion. Nazumi rushed forward and vanished behind a pink wall of plasma. And when the light had faded back to reality, only Anero stood, slightly burnt, but altogether alive. His scouter was blown off, but he was not injured. Nazumi’s dead. Just like that.
“I’m your next opponent,” Cyleria said, stepping forward.
“Oh goodie, another for the slaughter!” Anero yelled with delight. He’ll find me a much more difficult opponent. Better if he doesn’t expect that.
“No fair, no fair!” protested Habaro. “You already killed one. It’s my turn!”
Anero wasn’t having any of that. “No, she killed herself! It doesn’t count! It’s still my turn! Now shut up and let me focus!”
She was already at full power. Her heart was beating thickly in her chest. She felt no cold. Cyleria cleared her mind and focused only on her goal: to kill this cocky sack of fat. Looking him over, she noticed that Anero was adept at dodging. I’ll have to trick him. Make him do all the work. That shouldn’t be too hard.
Without waiting any longer, Cyleria kicked off the ground and charged at Anero. Teleporting behind him, she laid a few heavy punches on his blob-shaped back before he scurried off. He fired a stream of pink finger beams at Cyleria, but these were careless, sloppy things. He’s scared. Pathetic. He doesn’t even have his scouter anymore. He has no idea how much stronger I am. He can’t touch me. Regardless, as soon as Cyleria realized that Anero could not harm her, she worked towards ending his life quickly. Calling upon her ki, she formed an aqua beam in her hand and propelled herself forward with her remaining energy, teleporting around Anero, confusing him and making him sweat. He rose into the air, trying to escape the Saiyan, and flew back, away from the mountain, screaming and shouting in hysteria. That was when Cyleria, cold as a whisper on the wind, materialized behind the alien and punched him so hard her fist broke through his skin. Feeling the alien’s blood on her, hot and sticky and smelling of honey, she released her Kyorra Flash, and Anero dissolved before her eyes.
Cyleria touched down on the ground. “I’ll face whoever’s next.”
“You won’t,” Jalipek sneered. “It’s his turn.” The tall alien motioned to Araegon, who stood behind Cyleria. Cyleria looked over at him. He’ll die. We need to kill these monsters as quickly as possible. We don’t have time to play their games.
“I’m not afraid of you, freak-face.” Araegon walked forward carelessly.
“Araegon, stop,” Cyleria said. Lowering her voice as much as she could, she whispered, “Let’s attack them together.”
“No,” Araegon replied, waving her off. “Let me show you how it’s done.”
“Araegon! We don’t have time…!”
“Don’t worry, I’m going to kill this arrogant bastard faster than you can say ‘frakmonkey’. So whaddya say Cyleria, give me some luck? Eh?” he asked hopefully, puckering up his lips and tilting his head in towards her’s. Cyleria recoiled in disgust.
Jalipek sniggered. “Fool, I’ll rip your head from your spine!”
Turning from her slight, his face going red, Araegon shouted angrily, “You may as well try. I’m just a stupid monkey, after all! You’ll have no problem with me!”
“Let me show you how right you are.”
I should have kissed him, Cyleria realized. It would have helped him, given him more confidence… a small price to pay… She knew how it would end now. Araegon sighed and charged up to his maximum. Jalipek was already at his maximum, and his was higher than Araegon’s. His was the only scouter left. We only need to blind them. She created an afterimage and soared into the sky, guarded by the wind. Like a polished silvery-white plate the sky shone, inky and under-illuminated as clouds hovered about in angry mobs. Wisps of silver string swam around Cyleria. What is that? Raising her hands, she saw the silver energy spiraling out of her fists. My anger, she realized. I don’t want him to die, either. Looking down at the two, she felt the energy hot and heavy in her hand. It was time to let it go.
Jalipek held Araegon by the neck, taunting him and slapping his face. Then, he heard and felt the heat of Cyleria’s sudden attack bearing down on him. With a cry of surprise, Jalipek looked back down at Araegon and punched his fist through the Saiyan’s heart. Cyleria screamed. Araegon gasped. In the thin light, his blood was dark as pitch, oozing out of his body like sweet jelly. Jalipek let go of him, letting the corpse flop wildly onto the snow. Looking up, he prepared to jump away from the attack, but he realized that he had misjudged Cyleria and the speed and power of her blast. He thought he could kill Araegon and get away. Greedy bastard.
The silver drill-shaped energy beam hit Jalipek where his shoulder met his neck. Crying in pain, Jalipek hovered for a few seconds, trying to pull the energy off of himself as it tried to bore into his skin – and then, it broke through his skin, and his body filled with light. Screaming madly, as if he had been set on fire, Jalipek stumbled and fell from the sky, and a moment later, he exploded in a gooey mess that, almost instantaneously, vaporized itself.
Cyleria did not let up. Habaro was still there. He took to the sky and shot himself at her, his fists extended, his body enveloped in ki. On he went; on she dodged, till the day turned towards night and they were both running quite short on energy. Finally, Cyleria dodged one of Habaro’s attacks by rolling into a mountain. Sliding down the snow covering it, she got some distance between her and Habaro and hid behind a tree. As the dumb alien came flying down the mountain searching for her, Cyleria jumped out from behind her cover and gave the alien an uppercut of such ferocity that she could hear his bones shatter, felt the reverberations of such a severe hit rattle down her arm. Habaro spat up blood and groaned in pain. Just as he went to fly at her again, he let out a piercing yelp, and a second later, his head exploded.
Cyleria remained in the air, hovering amongst the falling snow, panting. Ajira has a scouter. She’ll be able to track me, the woman realized, in sudden horror.
The snow was picking up. The day was fading. It was growing colder. And Cyleria’s space pod wasn’t far. Even if Ajira knew that she alone amongst the warriors had survived… She shouldn’t be able to catch me before I get away.
Cyleria destroyed Araegon’s scouter and looked him over one last time. He loved me, and he knew I didn’t love him back. That must’ve been hard… but not as bad as the embarrassment he must’ve felt knowing that I could kill that alien and he couldn’t.
She had to clear her mind, forget Araegon. He’s not family. I have a family, and they’re waiting for me at home. I’m going to see them again. Cyleria patted her belly and tried to stop herself from shaking as she took to the sky and sprinted one final time towards the end of her nightmare.
They were covered in a layer of frost, but otherwise, they were untouched. Four pods. Three never to be piloted again. They were like grave markers. Cyleria felt the tears come fresh and beat them back with the ferocity of a winter gale. Her heart beat savagely with anxiety, and her head was filled with thoughts of black ice.
Opening her pod, she heard the vehicle hum to life. It was the first good sign in a long time. In the next moment, her space pod exploded in a flash of fire, and Cyleria was thrown back, into a tree. Slumping to the ground, she saw the finned, tall form of Ajira standing over the fire. My luck’s run out. This is it.
“I find it impressive that you defeated my team. I don’t know how someone as weak as you managed to do it, but the past is the past.” Ajira strolled recklessly close to the kneeling Saiyan. “It’s time you met your future, monkey.”
That was all the chance Cyleria needed. She jumped up, creating an invisible ki blast in her hand; thrusting her attack into Ajira’s face, Cyleria rolled aside. The explosions she did not see, but the sounds of Ajira’s screams and her scouter frying was good enough. The Saiyan warrior took to the sky and hid herself in the clouds. She can’t sense me now. I can lure her away, and then come back for a pod…
At once, daggers of red light came shooting up through the clouds, like hellfire. Cyleria dodged the random throws, moving like a snowflake through the air, a pirate smile upon her face. She is truly blind.
Captain Ajira took to the sky, to search for Cyleria with her naked eyes. In the heavy snowfall, the fog and clouds and cold all blurred together to create something far worse than poor visibility. The bleakness of it all had a certain beauty to it, as Cyleria often thought, but she felt like she was at the end of the universe out here. She felt so incredibly lonely and helpless – there was a far stronger warrior trying to hunt her down and kill her, after all.
Cyleria teleported behind Ajira and hit the officer with three green energy beams, stunning her. When Ajira flung herself around, Cyleria teleported behind her again and threw a sparkling silver ki bomb at the alien. Ajira’s blue-grey skin split open, and blood began to seep down her forehead and chest. She can bleed. She can be killed.
Flying forward again, Cyleria went to hit Ajira, when the captain turned to face her at the last second. Screaming, the Saiyan rammed into the alien, and the two tumbled to the snow below. Scrambling to get up, Cyleria tasted iron and water and saw only white. The woman used all of her strength to stand up. She couldn’t think about her growing headache; she had to survive. For me. For my children. For Layeeck.
The wind was screaming so loud it hurt her ears. She staggered forward several paces before Ajira grabbed her from behind and spun her around. In a panic, Cyleria slapped at the alien, electricity sparking between her fingers in a quasi-energy attack. Whatever this was, Cyleria didn’t know. She had just formed the energy by instinct. It must be because I’m terrified. My body’s trying to keep me alive. The electricity exploded against Ajira’s face and popped her eyes like cracked eggs. The captain fell shrieking, spilling her blood on the ice-covered snow. Her hands covering her face, Ajira didn’t even see Cyleria run off.
Cyleria doubted if she could kill Ajira; the alien was just too strong. I’m too tired, she decided. Her eyes were getting heavy. The lactic acid was building in her muscles and making it hard to run. Still she ran, until she tripped in the snow. Then she crawled. She could see the silhouettes of the space pods in the distance. If only she could reach them…
A boot stamped into Cyleria’s back, and she collapsed against the snow. Shivering, she cried, “No, n-no… let me go! P-p-please…”
He kicked her over and laughed politely. Zarbon’s earrings swayed violently as the wind whipped through the mountain pass. Cyleria’s tears were frozen against her cheeks. I was so close…
“Look what we have here. A monkey trying to escape the sinking ship. Well,” Zarbon smirked, slamming his foot into Cyleria’s chest, “it’s a pity monkeys are notoriously bad swimmers. They tend to drown.” She felt her ribs split and explode. Screaming and spitting up blood, Cyleria nearly fainted from the pain. She could only hear her heartbeat, feel her blood, see the silver in the sky. In her mind, she rode dark icebergs and felt their weight upon her shoulders.
This isn’t happening. It’s just a bad dream. “P-please…” she cried, spitting up blood and gasping in the snow. “I-I-I… have… a ch-ch–”
“Child?” Zarbon’s voice was bemused. “Really, do you think that’ll save you?” In his hand, an orange ball of fire was growing.
“P-please… you d-don’t understand… my son, I-I’m preg–”
Zarbon snarled and lowered his flames upon Cyleria, silencing her. She tried to crawl away, but she couldn’t move. She tried to plead, but her tongue was burning. Behind Zarbon, she saw Captain Ajira stumbling blindly through the darkness, her face bright with blood. Zarbon’s gaze never left Cyleria’s eyes. He enjoys this. It’s what he always wanted, she realized. But why…? What did we ever do to him?
Warm came the energy, then it grew hot, and unbearably so. As the snow covered her, Cyleria felt nothing. Her body went numb and soon she didn’t even feel the numbness. Only the cold, deep as bone, comforted her then, and she thought she felt something kicking in her stomach as she watched the last light leave the world.
Forgive me Layeeck. I couldn’t wait to tell you the good news.
- The name of this story is not based on anything in particular, but I think its meaning, in relation to the actual story, is clear. This was one of the first story titles I came up with for The Heels of the Unknown.
- As of this commentary, Black Dawn is the longest one-shot I've ever written.
- The snowstorm obviously gives this story a winter feel to it. Black Dawn has a much colder setting, both on Planet Vegeta and the alien world, than previous The Heels of the Unknown stories. Also, the connection between the chapter "Snow Day" from Dragon Ball Z: The Forgotten and this story is evident, although the two do not take place on the same exact day.
- "Still, there was a certain charm to it all, especially in its starkness. Cyleria loved the city at night." - this is a combination of my own tastes and some Japanese aesthetics (that are only somewhat related to the tea ceremony, in truth). But still, I wanted to set a certain tone early in the story, and these two sentences helped me do that.
- Cyleria's story is the first since Down the Well-Worn Road in this collection to use internalized, italicized thoughts. This writing style is difficult to work with, but rewarding if executed well. I tried not to overuse the technique though, so it's only in two THOTU stories. Black Dawn was certainly a story I needed this style for, given all that is going on with Cyleria. The plot of this story is equally in the mental world and the real world.
- I think the dutiful actions of Cyleria in the opening section show a slight Heian Period influence on my writing.
- It was immensely satisfying to write Cyleria's thoughts about her family for the first time. She doesn't appear in TF, but there is a sense of this story paralleling TF to an extent and providing some insight on her character. In truth, had I created her when I first wrote TF, she would have probably been in that story in a minor capacity. Because I didn't develop her too much until Dragon Ball: The Great War, that allowed me to have her present her opinions about Ledas and Layeeck for the first time here (post-TGW, of course). Personally, I find her insights to be quite refreshing.
- Hyper Zergling and I established in The Great War that female Saiyans sometimes fought bare-chested in the Saiyan-Tuffle War. Cyleria being bare-chested when Araegon enters is a nod to that. Her breasts are sexualized, certainly, but not to the extent that breasts are in human culture. Saiyan culture is different than human culture, and readers must take care to understand that when reading this section.
- Cyleria is a cocky, confident woman. This is seen in TGW, and I tried to make her consistent with that presentation of her character by having her not be afraid of Araegon, even in a supposed state of vulnerability. She merely wants him to close the door quickly because she's cold, not because she's ashamed of her body.
- Araegon's lust of Cyleria and the way they talk implies that stuff has gone on between the two in the past. Probably nothing too serious, and probably nothing that Cyleria initiated herself. I'd like to think that Araegon tried to grope her once when he was drunk or something, and that's the extent of it. But who knows. I leave these things deliberately vague for the readers to form their own opinions.
- Cyleria invoking Araegon's young daughter in the midst of his lust was a brilliant, calculated move. Look at how easily she lords over him. She is not intimidated by the man, physically or mentally.
- "There was sadness in his voice, like a snowflake that had survived till spring." - one of my favorite lines in this collection. If only Cyleria could've been that snowflake...
- After Araegon leaves, a few moments pass. Layeeck comes in at that time; he was not in the room beforehand. That Cyleria doesn't notice him is jarring for the readers, for it seems like Layeeck had been in the room the whole time. This was a narrative technique I used to imply that she was so lost in her thoughts following Araegon's exit that she didn't hear her mate enter. I'm sure that Layeeck passed Araegon in the hall, though, so he should have some inclination as to what happened.
- It was really cool to develop Saiyan culture in this story. Seeing Layeeck off-duty with Cyleria is strange to me, too. I'm so used to seeing him with Ledas, paranoid or being humiliated. Here, he's noble and very much as he was with Cyleria in The Great War. Yet, timeline-wise, this story takes place during the latter stages of the Prince Vegeta Saga of TF (I'd guess it takes place a day or two before "Snow Day", but I'm not entirely sure yet). So Layeeck has gone through a lot already that readers of TF will know about. It's cool to see how different he acts around different people. He's much different with Cyleria than he is with his son.
- It was certainly difficult to write the romantic stuff between Cyleria and Layeeck from Cyleria's perspective since I'm not a girl. I kind of just went on instinct for that stuff. Like, her noticing his muscles and then appreciating his beard against her skin... dunno if women actually like/notice that stuff, but it's the best I could do.
- It is implied that Cyleria and Layeeck haven't been on particularly good terms recently. This would also partially explain Layeeck's mood in the Prince Vegeta Saga if true. It's good to see that they reconcile a bit here. I don't think Layeeck is suspicious that Cyleria is cheating on him with Araegon. I don't specify why he suddenly turns romantic towards her again. There could be a variety of factors, some being influenced by the events of PVS, some perhaps unknown. I don't believe that needs to be explained fully. Sometimes passion like that has no explanation.
- The revelation that Cyleria's not spent much time on the planet because she's going on so many missions is interesting for numerous reasons, and I wrote that primarily to explain why she's not in TF. I think her obligation to her team is part of what has strained her relationship with Layeeck. Still, there is evidence that when they are together, as in this scene, their romance gets rekindled, and they remember why they love each other.
- I haven't read this story since publishing it on the wiki, so re-reading the Layeeck/Cyleria conversation is quite exhilarating. I think this is some of my finest dialogue I've ever written. I do partly feel bad for Layeeck, and his pride is understandable, but at the same time, Cyleria is far more rational and smart with what she says. Also, there's a certain amount of disconnect between the two in this conversation that shows how little time they've spent together recently. That was a deliberate writing choice, and it was difficult for me to get right.
- "“You should be proud,” she replied, defiance thick in her voice. “We made that little devil.”" - if I were in Cyleria's shoes, I would say the same thing. Layeeck should be proud that Ledas is his son, given what the boy has accomplished in the Prince Vegeta Saga up to this point. It's a shame he's not.
- "“Good. Don’t be moping around our son. It won’t be good for him.”" - this was a moment I was able to show Cyleria's parenting style a bit. She's not seen with Ledas in this story (and indeed I've only ever written one deleted scene with her and him together that chronologically takes place before this story (no, it's not a sex scene)), but I still wanted to be able to give a sense of how she cares for her boy.
- "Cyleria frowned. “I can. But I think we’ll have to wait a little while longer before we try again.”" - one of the first hints that Cyleria is already pregnant and knows it. As to why she doesn't tell Layeeck about that yet, she doesn't want him to stop her from going on her mission. She feels a sense of duty weighing down on her shoulders; she doesn't want to abandon her squad now, after all they've been through together. But clearly, she's hoping this is her last mission, and I'd say she's probably 3-4 months pregnant at this point. This is the last mission she may ever go on. She wants to experience a planet-clearing mission with her team one last time, and such a thing would be impossible if Layeeck knew she was pregnant. It's a bit reckless on her part, but I find her sentimentality to be cute.
- The way Layeeck calls Cyleria "girl" is a callback to The Great War, where he called her that all the time. It's a sign of affection.
- Nazumi's a pyromaniac. She's also psychotic. She's a Saiyan without a doubt. I wanted to put a bit of a unique spin on a pyromaniac with her character. I don't even remember coming up with the tattoos thing, but that's pretty cool.
- Kolhrai was never meant to have much of a personality. He's a rock-solid, professional captain. The main bit about him that's interesting is the scar under his eye. This is a reminder of when Cyleria once tried to take over the team (because she's stronger than him) and failed when she realized she was an inferior leader compared to him.
- Rutabach's death serves the narrative purpose of whittling down the Saiyan team to four, making them easier to manage in a one-shot. However, his death has other purposes as well. For one, it's an ominous sign, perhaps something that Cyleria and the others should have considered more closely. On the other hand, even if they had postponed the mission, they would have died, for Frieza blows up Planet Vegeta only a few days after this scene.
- "“We go on,” Kolhrai stated plainly. “Frieza needs his planet, and we don’t have time to find a replacement. So we’ll go as four. We’ll manage.”" - though this line of dialogue looks rather unremarkable, I think it's a good representation of Kolhrai's personality. He's not emotional; he's professional and tries to keep his team together. He's like Kim from Gears of War in that way. I'm sure Rutabach's death has affected him, but he won't let that postpone the mission, and he would never show grief in front of his subordinates.
- "She wrinkled her face in disgust, imagining Araegon’s fat yellow mouth wrapped around one of her nipples, working at it like a starved babe." - this is a reference to a passage from A Clash of Kings from the A Song of Ice and Fire series, where one of the characters has a disturbing vision: "In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her. They had rattish pointed faces and tiny pink hands, like the servitor who had brought her the glass of shade. One was pumping between her thighs. Another savaged her breasts, worrying at the nipples with his wet red mouth, tearing and chewing". While breasts are not really sexualized in Saiyan culture as much as in human culture, they still are. Even so, Cyleria's thoughts are not really sexual - she's more making fun of Araegon's immaturity and comparing him to a baby.
- "That’s what it means to be a Saiyan. We bury things deep inside us." - clever girl.
- The end of the first section is pretty heavy-handed. I didn't really want to keep what she's hiding a secret much longer, for I deemed the story to be more powerful if the stakes are known ahead of time.
- I tried to describe the alien city as being quite beautiful. When it's destroyed, there is a greater sense of loss. Make no mistake: the Saiyans are quite evil for what they do to the world. They've done stuff like this dozens of times before, too. They are butchering innocent aliens so Frieza can sell the aliens' world on the galactic market. It's absolutely brutal. So when Zarbon's team later comes to the planet and massacres Cyleria's team, it's not like what his soldiers do to the Saiyans is any different from what the Saiyans do to the natives - aside from the fact that the natives were innocent and the Saiyans were not. The morality of this is complicated, so I tried to tackle the issue with subtlety and nuance.
- "Soon it was Cyleria and Araegon joining in the fun, raining beams and balls of ki down upon the town with all their fury. When the dust settled, Nazumi led the way, and the group jumped down into the wreckage. Fog drifted across the ruined streets; fires burned, collapsing buildings and melting snow; screams wafted through the air, and with them, the natives. They were small, like fetuses riding curved blue flowers across the wind. When they saw the Saiyans, the survivors shouted in high-pitched clicks that Cyleria knew was language. They’re sentient, at least. They understand what we’re doing to them. Nazumi burned them all the same. The way they caught fire, exploded, and fell as smoldering wrecks onto the snowy ground stirred something in Cyleria." - I get a sense of aware in this passage. The last line seems to imply that Cyleria does too.
- Kolhrai's takedown of Araegon's two-person team idea was important in showing how, although Kolhrai may appear to be rather boring and stale, he is not a pushover. He quickly puts the other Saiyan in his place and orders everyone around like he's a field general. I knew by this point that he would die in the second section, giving me little time to develop his character. The conversation with Araegon was one way to develop him.
- "“Is that a threat?!” roared Araegon, jumping forward, blue-white energy forming in his fist." - this is a good look at Araegon's penchant for impulsive rage. He has a similar outburst in the third scene.
- It's funny to me how threatening the lackeys were to the Saiyans. They obviously knew that Planet Vegeta had been vaporized, and most of the Saiyans already killed. So they're just having a lot of fun. It's especially funny considering none of them are very strong. They're talking like they have power levels of 10,000. As it turns out, all of them get wiped out, but their words remain true, which I find to be an interesting contrast.
- I wanted to make sure that Cyleria and her team were amongst the last Saiyans killed in the Genocide of the Saiyans. As such, the second, third, and fourth scenes take place several days after Planet Vegeta's destruction. However, in my continuity, they are not the last Saiyans exterminated (though they are probably among the last few dozen).
- Cyleria disobeys Kolhrai's wishes not to attack the soldiers, which is a callback to her previous insurrection when she tried to take command of the team. Cyleria in general is quite rebellious - see The Great War for many more examples.
- Ajira is a character I spent a significant amount of time designing. I wanted someone who was like Zarbon - elegant, ruthless, intelligent. She's less experienced and less passionate than Zarbon though.
- I was careful to not have the aliens specifically reveal that Frieza destroyed the rest of the Saiyans, though they hint at it quite a bit. Even Ajira doesn't outright say the planet was destroyed, but her words imply that the Saiyan homeworld was in fact destroyed. It's difficult to say if any of the Saiyans understood her in the heat of the moment.
- "The minions died easily. Cyleria punched them, incinerated them, kicked them, and humiliated them. All they could do to her was bathe her in their blood." - this is perhaps the most successful attempt of mine to express the futility of PTO minions in prose.
- Kolhrai's death is a nod to Minh Young Kim's death in Gears of War.
- Cyleria's guilt in regards to her fight with Kolhrai in the past was a good character building moment that, alas, came at an inopportune time. Kolhrai dies, and soon will Cyleria. She finally accepts him as her commander as he dies, and thus all of the climaxes of her relationship with him end up being pointless. Such is life. The nihilism of this story really comes out at the end of the second section with these ideas in mind.
- Kolhrai's fight against Ajira and death is a more emotional section than I remember it being. I quite like that part. Cyleria's thought that she and the surviving Saiyans became snowflakes trying to escape is really nice imagery too. It's great because I don't even remember writing that line.
- In my universe, the last Legendary Super Saiyan was a female. At various points in time, I considered writing a tale about her. Never ended up happening. The stuff in this story was me having a little fun with that idea, and I probably won't ever write more about it in the future (but you never know). Also, it is no accident that after their species has potentially been rendered nearly extinct (a fact Cyleria is not yet ready to believe), an extensive conversation about Saiyan lore takes place. It's a pity, because I think much of what is discussed at the start of the third section dies with those characters.
- "The Last Legendary Super Saiyan’s tale is sad and old, Cyleria reflected. They wouldn’t want to hear it." - while it's unlikely I'll ever write a story about the last Legendary Super Saiyan from her own perspective, it's possible that I may write a story about Cyleria telling the story to Ledas or something like that. Dunno. It's an idea I just got while re-reading this.
- So one other thing I want to mention (that I believe I also talked a bit about on The Great War's anthology page) is the possibility that Cyleria may be related to Zhukin. She is saddened when he dies to an extent that would be unnatural for a mere follower. Even when she remembers him in this story, Cyleria feels sudden grief that she is barely able to conceal from her comrades. That may or may not mean she's related to Zhukin. If she's his bastard daughter, for instance, that would of course mean that she and her descendants have the blood of the last Legendary Super Saiyan in them. And remember that in my universe, Zhukin's only legitimate daughter was the wife of Paragus, so...
- "“The victors get to tell history how they want to,” she reminded them." - such will be the case with the Saiyans after they are nearly completely wiped out by Frieza and his minions.
- "The aliens came racing towards the Saiyans under a snow-crusted overlook that was twisted and warped into a half-circle." - I once wrote a final essay on the connection between crescent shapes and mono no aware in Japanese Edo-period paintings. A similar effect was attempted here, although it's probably too subtle to be noticed unless I mention it.
- I'd forgotten how cool Jalipek is. Awesome entrance. For anyone who has read multiple stories of mine, I think it's obvious that I try to make a villain's first entrance as memorable and badass as possible. Such was the case with both Ajira and Jalipek in this story.
- Habero and Anero demand 1v1 duels because, well, I was trying to mimic the Ginyu Force a bit here. The Ginyu Force is wildly unprofessional and its members often make games of their battles, as seen on Namek. So I had a similar thing going on here, albeit less flamboyant and humorous.
- Okay maybe it was a little humorous. I'd actually forgotten I had written that hot sauce part. Suffice to say, it's appropriate given that all of the aliens' names are puns on various peppers.
- "They want to look tough. That means they aren’t." - really like this thought. Cyleria's one cynical, smart girl.
- The humorous turn in the story after the introduction of Habero and Anero was something I don't remember writing. It's good for the pacing though, for soon after their fights, things turn really dark.
- Nazumi's funny, but she's not very intelligent. Cyleria made a mistake allowing her to go first. Really, she should have gone herself, but she correctly realizes that if she does, she'll probably be too worn out to fight Ajira and Jalipek (though she'd be able to beat the two sludge monsters easily). There isn't a clear way for Cyleria and her team to get out of this alive. If everyone attacks one another at the same time, her side would surely lose due to the power level disparity.
- Nazumi's death was written very quickly. I wanted to mimic the shock Cyleria was feeling in the description. It goes by fast, almost too fast for Cyleria to feel anything. In real-time, I think it would be like that for Cyleria. She feared that Nazumi would die, but not like that. She was killed by her own attack - and then she self-destructs and does as much damage to Anero as Chiaotzu did to Nappa. It's very unfortunate for the Saiyans that things turned out this way. Nazumi wasn't much weaker than Anero. She could have won. But she grew impatient and Anero exploited that character deficiency to maximum effect.
- Jalipek's sense of honor screws Cyleria over, as does Araegon's. The other Saiyans don't seem to care as much as Cyleria. Jalipek and the others exploited the Saiyans' love of fighting with this little game, and only Cyleria was able to keep a level head. If she and Araegon had attacked the two remaining fighters at once, they could have had a chance. Not a great chance, mind you, but a better chance than Araegon had of beating Jalipek by himself. He dug his own grave. Araegon's romanticism, his willingness to be reckless and gallant to try to win over Cyleria, cost him his life, and perhaps cost Cyleria hers too.
- Frakmonkey is an insult used the the Ratchet & Clank series. I opened the second chapter of my Ratchet & Clank fan fiction with this same curse word.
- The missed kiss at the end is salt in the wound, I think. Thematically and tonally, it has importance (but I can't go into that lest I give you all the answers), but I think it's also just a case of nothing going right for any of the Saiyans in this story. Bad fortune and timing has screwed over every member of Kolhrai's team in Black Dawn at one point or another, and that is not a coincidence.
- Cyleria's leaking energy (a consequence of her rage) has obvious sexual connotations.
- Jalipek's gambit is pretty cool. It's stuff like that that separates stories like this from some of my older one-shots. Really creative and thematically interesting that Jalipek would do such a thing. Really beautiful prose surrounding Araegon's and Jalipek's deaths too, in my opinion.
- Cyleria could've killed Habero much quicker had she not used up so much of her energy to kill Jalipek and Anero. Alas that neither Nazumi nor Araegon had managed to do anything in their fights. They really let Cyleria down. She did everything she could. Really, her performance in this story is exceptional. Few, if any, Saiyans could have done better in her position.
- The fading day = the fading of the Saiyan race.
- The main plot of this story is relatively simple: Saiyans on a foreign world are hunted down by a Planet Trade Organization team until they're all killed. That's not the most important part of Black Dawn. I'd say Cyleria's struggles, her struggle with being mentally and physically tough, her guilt, and the burden of her obligations is much more interesting. The internal war that Cyleria fights to stay tough, to intelligently get herself out of horrible positions, is really what this story is about. Cyleria shows that she is of a different quality than the rest of her team by her tenacity in Black Dawn. She refuses to die; she kills every member of Ajira's team just to get home to her family. She's absolutely incredible in this story, but there's just too much bad luck, just too much stuff going on that's out of her control for this to end happily. In that way, she's a lot like Bardock.
- "Opening her pod, she heard the vehicle hum to life. It was the first good sign in a long time. In the next moment, her space pod exploded in a flash of fire, and Cyleria was thrown back, into a tree." - this sequence epitomizes Cyleria's luck in this story.
- Cyleria's bitch-slap of Ajira is essentially the same move as Ledas' Feral move. Like her son, she developed it intuitively in a time of deep emotional distress.
- Ajira loses her eyes at least. She loses the ability to see. Though Ajira lives for years to come (even outliving Zarbon and Frieza!), the wound Cyleria gives her with that bitch-slap haunts the alien captain for the rest of her life.
- She gets so close to freedom - of course, even if Cyleria got away, she'd soon find out that everyone she ever knew is dead (except Ledas, who she'd never be able to find anyway) - even defeating Ajira in a miraculous duel. Everything builds up to Cyleria making an improbable escape from that icy world. And then Zarbon appears, and the tragedy is complete.
- Cyleria's end is both sad and gruesome, and I tried not to make it too gory. But it's still pretty bad. It's hard for me to read. I like Cyleria a lot. I wish Ledas could have had a younger sibling, that he and his parents could have lived their lives in peace. But it could never happen. I knew when I sat down to write this story how it would end. I always knew that. It doesn't make it any easier to write or read, though. Reading this story, reading Cyleria's fate, makes me more emotional than pretty much anything else I've written.
- "Zarbon’s gaze never left Cyleria’s eyes. He enjoys this. It’s what he always wanted, she realized. But why…? What did we ever do to him?" - the natives of this planet could ask the same of Cyleria and her team. Things tend to come full circle. This isn't exactly karmic so much as it is me pointing out the hypocrisy of the Saiyans' position. Despite this story being so sad, it should not be forgotten that Cyleria and her team have killed trillions of innocent beings, and in the end, they must answer for the blood on their hands one way or another. It's unfortunate it had to end this way, particularly for Cyleria, but who's to say her life is worth more than a random native? I certainly like her more than any random alien, of course, but logically, such a stance is indefensible.
- "Warm came the energy, then it grew hot, and unbearably so. As the snow covered her, Cyleria felt nothing. Her body went numb and soon she didn’t even feel the numbness. Only the cold, deep as bone, comforted her then, and she thought she felt something kicking in her stomach as she watched the last light leave the world." - the opening part reminds me of the ending of Ergo Sum. The second sentence... well, it had to be written. It's a moment of climax in a story such as this, as burning as ice.
- "Forgive me Layeeck. I couldn’t wait to tell you the good news." - these sentences were not in the original draft. I added them in during the final editing phase of Black Dawn. It's pretty obvious Cyleria's pregnant, so I didn't want to end on that reveal. Cyleria wanted to rekindle her love with her mate. She wanted to settle down, to return to building a family with the ones she loved. She had but one mission to complete, and then she could go home, have another kid or three, and live out the rest of her life how she wished. It's too bad Frieza had other plans.
- This story had to be quite tragic, and in many ways it parallels Bardock's tale - the parent could not overcome an enemy that the child would eventually manage to. Make no mistake: Ledas does encounter Ajira (specifically, between the Stomping Grounds Saga and Planet Earth Saga of TF, which is shown in an as-of-yet unwritten chapter of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization), and it's a pity that Cyleria blinded her, because I'm sure she would have seen the resemblance between Ledas and Cyleria. And Ajira would've liked to see her killer's face. But that is a tale for another story, methinks.
I think this is one of my best stories. The prose is excellent, building off the momentum of earlier THOTU stories to really capture the coldness of the setting and situations. The dialogue and character interactions are also on another level; particularly the conversation between Cyleria and Layeeck is a highlight not only of this story, but of my writing in general. I am quite pleased with how all the characters turned out too - each one is unique and memorable, even the PTO aliens. Really cool stuff, and it's really sad. The aesthetics, thematic stuff, and all that literary jive was really subtle in this story. The emotion of a pregnant woman just trying to get home, to tell her mate that she's pregnant, is quite emotional, but it's not all that's going on. Cyleria's an absolute beast in this story, too. She earns her victories, both mental and physical, and I don't think there's an easier protagonist to root for than her in these first seven THOTU stories, despite the atrocities she's committed. And the ending... well, only Brave's ending causes me to get as emotional as the ending of this story. It's beautiful and sad and unfair... but that's life, I guess. Cyleria's is the Bardock in Ledas' life, and it's a pity that he never got to see or hear about his mother's finest hour. But that just makes this story resonate more with me. Overall, I'd give Black Dawn an S.
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Part 65 ---->