I knew I wanted to write a story about young Roshi almost as soon as I came up with the idea of Things Were Better Then. I knew it would revolve around the Piccolo Wars, but did not know much more than that at first. I was actually more eager to write this than Glory, as I felt like I knew what I wanted to do with Burning Man more than I did the other story. As seen in the below picture, Burning Man was one of the first TWBT stories I had a name for (though, admittedly, it was the second name for that story, as seen in the picture - The Ash Lord would have been a cool title, but unfortunately, it didn't fit as well in terms of relation to the plot of the story):
However, after I completed Glory and the unexpected story Monster, I found that I actually was having quite a difficult time conceptualizing this story. I actually began working on Burning Man before starting Monster, but after I hit a wall with its plot, I moved onto Monster and forgot about this story for the better part of March. Once Monster had been completed, I did move back to working on this story, though, as I wanted the rest of TWBT to be written in order, even if I was having writer's block. So I pushed through my writer's block by watching the anime flashbacks of the Piccolo Wars. These were actually quite difficult to find (at least in English), which further delayed Burning Man. I was eventually able to find them, though, and I'm glad I did, because they heavily influenced this story.
So as to the writing, I first began writing it in the early hours of March 1, 2015 (having created the document for Burning Man on google docs on February 28, but not writing anything that day). I only wrote the first paragraph and part of the second paragraph that day. I hit another bout of writer's block after writing that much and abandoned writing anything for Burning Man until March 8. On that day, I didn't actually write anything for the story, but I came up with Nimon's and Myoshi's names that day. I next wrote two sentences on March 10; these sentences had come to me as I had been trying to get to sleep, and I added them to the page the next day. However, these two lines were later deleted during the final edits on this story in late March and early April. On March 22, I continued to tinker with Myoshi's and Nimon's names, trying to find the right balance between the puns and good-sounding names.
I next began to write for this story at 11:45 pm on March 30. I continued to write until 3:37 am on March 31 - so for almost four hours I worked on this story. However, I only completed the first section of it (the night scene) in these four hours. Unlike any other story in this collection, the writing for Burning Man was just going very slowly, and I don't really have an explanation for it. It was just a very difficult story for me to write. When I woke up at around 1 pm on March 31, I immediately went back to this story and re-read the first section, editing it and changing some wordings for a few minutes. I next returned to the story at 10:22 of March 31 and continued to edit the first part of Burning Man for a few minutes. Then, I moved onto the second part of the story. I wrote until 3:22 am of April 1. I didn't finish the story then, but the vast majority of it was completed in the roughly five hours of writing I did for Burning Man that night.
I returned to Burning Man for the last time starting at 2:24 am on April 2. I finished up the last part of the story, and read it over a few times, editing the dialogue and wordings of some of the prose. I finished this story at 4:01 am of April 2, and posted it on the wiki half an hour later, after creating the story's template.
So as can be seen in the above information, Burning Man took a helluva long time to write; it took me way too long to write, considering it's not even 3000 words. But I had severe writer's block with this story. It took a tremendous amount of work and editing to bring it all together. I've never worked so long on a one-shot before or since Burning Man (as of writing this anthology). And yes, I consider this story to have been harder to write than Sovereign and Before Creation Comes Destruction.
There were a few things that I figured out as I was writing this story that helped me develop some of the themes and plot direction. I based the first section off of a famous short sci-fi story called Burning Chrome. I'll admit I've never read this story through, but I know its plot, and I've probably read about half of it (not the first half, but just cumulatively). I don't know why this story has affected my writing so much, as I don't even consider it one of the better sci-fi stories I've ever read. Yet here it is, being a major influence of the first section of Burning Man and of other stories of mine, including The History of the Decline and Fall of the Planet Trade Organization.
For the second section, a major influence was Fan Kuan's painting, Travelers Among Mountains and Streams. I had been introduced to this painting in an Asian art history class I was taking at the time of writing this story, and I instantly loved it. It's one of the greatest landscape paintings I've ever seen. It greatly influenced the scenery of this story, and the themes presented in that painting also influenced the themes I used in this story to some degree.
So the theme color for this story is pink. As shown in the below picture (and the above one), I had settled on the color pink relatively early on in the creation of Things Were Better Then:
"No One Else", the song this story is formatted around, was difficult for me to pin a color to, in truth. Pink of course was one that fits it, but I also had white and a light aqua blue in mind that seem to fit well as well. However, as Glory works best with white and Bonetown Blues works best with a darker shade of blue, it didn't feel right to have multiple shades of blue for these songs. I wanted more distinct colors, so that's why I chose pink. The romantic nature of this story suits the color well, I believe, and I'm not sure how I could have worked in a light blue or a white as easily as pink.
So yeah, that's about it. This story was a grind - one which is not equaled anywhere else in Things Were Better Then. For the longest time after writing this story, I had ambivalent feelings about it, stemming more from how hard it had been to write it than the actual quality of the story. Now that I'm more than 3 months removed from writing it, though, I think those feelings have died down so that I can review and analyze Burning Man objectively. Anyway, onto the commentary!
Story[edit | edit source]
|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||February 28 - April 2, 2015|
|Released:||April 2, 2015|
|Theme song:||No One Else|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
This story's theme is No One Else.
The moon was a burning pink sore behind a ragged veil of smoke and ash. Below, a midnight wind howled through a ravaged city, where untold millions had lost their lives – and where many still would. I watched yellow and blue lighted explosions flicker and fade into the ashy darkness of that metropolis, and I almost thought I could hear the screams. There would be a lot more of that before this was over; a lot more pain, a lot more death, and too little hope for any of us to go around. It was cold that night. Up in the mountains, we were sheltered from the war and bloodshed, but we could not escape that cold.
I shivered and returned to the tent, finding everyone fast asleep. I moved soundlessly to the far corner where my girl was sleeping and slipped into our sleeping bag. I felt her jolt awake as we touched.
“R-roshi…” she murmured, not opening her eyes, “you’re freezing! Why’d you go outside again…?”
“Shhh, warm me up, baby.” I kissed her and hugged her tight. She mumbled something indistinct, but I knew what it meant: ‘don’t wake the others, please’.
She was all I had left. King Piccolo had taken everything else from me that night he attacked my master’s school. I sometimes dreamed of that nightmare, Piccolo’s demon spawn attacking us and slaughtering us. I remembered the shouting and the blood. I remembered the look on my brothers’ faces as they grew pale and fell to the ground. I remembered when it was just Shen and I who remained, and Master Mutaito appeared and rescued us. But master couldn’t save anyone else. We three escaped, and it wasn’t long before the shame of our defeat forced master to leave us in exile. Shen was gone not long after. He begged me to give up the fight. He said it was hopeless. There was nothing we could do to stop King Piccolo. Our martial arts school had been the last best hope to kill that demon, and once he had crushed us, the Earth’s fate had been decided. Shen had wanted me to give up, like he had.
My skin was warming against hers. I remembered when I had found her amongst a group of refugees fleeing King Piccolo’s destruction. I remembered seeing her eyes for the first time – so blue they looked violet on a sunny day – and forgetting who I was. We hadn’t been allowed to be with women in Master Mutaito’s school. She was my first. She was mine and I was hers. We were all we had left in this rotten world. King Piccolo could have the rest. But she was mine.
I brushed my hand across her breast and down her thigh, and the wind blew all night, the green nylon of our tent flapping against the rusting steel pole skeleton that came together over our heads.
I slept later than most, and when I woke, I found myself alone in our sleeping bag. The morning had been punctured by a light summer rain by the time I stepped outside. Our group of refugees, forty or fifty strong, was congregated along a winding river, some fishing, some huddled under umbrellas mingling and playing games. It was almost as if we weren’t fleeing King Piccolo’s terror. I guess it was better to pretend.
Her name was Myori. Might’ve been twenty-two years old for all I knew. I didn’t care; I knew little about her, and she knew less about me. I’d known her all my life, or, rather, three days, but it felt like all my life. It felt like I was whole while I was with her, like that part of me that had died the night King Piccolo attacked us had been reborn anew. All that mattered now was that she made me feel happy, made me forget that I had once been a warrior forbidden from even looking at girls. I ran my fingers through my hair. It was starting to grow back. Soon, I wouldn’t look any different than the rest of them. The last bits of my warrior life were slowly fading away.
As I stretched my legs and left the tent, scanning the camp for my girlfriend, an old man with a wispy white beard stumbled up to me and smiled.
“We’re leavin’ in ‘bout five minutes, eh? Pack your things if ya got any,” he spoke, before hobbling off to spread his news to others still. I smiled back. The warm summer rain felt good on my face.
Her dyed pink hair was the giveaway. I spotted Myori across the encampment sitting on a cracked boulder. She was holding a half-eaten peach in one hand and she was laughing so profusely that her cheeks were glowing rosey. Standing next to her was a willowy man with black curly hair. His hand was on her shoulder.
My insides froze and my mouth twitched. What I was seeing was wrong – she was mine, not his. I ran forward. She was mine. I would not let her go. Myori was what had made me normal again, what had made me fit in with the other refugees. I wasn’t about to let some man take her from. Time seemed to slow down as I ran, yet before I knew it, I found myself standing before them. Panting, I broke into their conversation without care.
“What’s going on here?!”
Myori stopped laughing and stared at me, coolly. She took a bite of her peach. “Oh hey Roshi, glad you finally woke up. I was afraid we would have to leave you behind.” Her voice was sweet like rosewater.
“Who is this?” I asked, pointing to the man. His hand had fallen from her shoulder the moment I had arrived, as if that meant it had never touched her in the first place.
She giggled. “This is Nimon. He’s a fisherman. Look what he caught for me!” She reached behind her for something and then produced a good-sized salmon still hanging on its hook. “We’re going to cook it for dinner!”
“You can have some too, if you want,” Nimon offered to me. That made Myori giggle again. She punched him playfully in the arm. “Oh, Nimon, you’re so generous!”
I felt heat rising in my face and I wanted to scream. “That’s kind of you, Nimon, but I need to talk with my girlfriend. Do you mind giving us some privacy?”
He raised his hands, shrugged, and walked off.
“Hey, don’t make him go! We were having a nice conversation,” Myori whined.
I moved to her and put my arm around her shoulder. “Myori, what are you doing?” I tried to keep my cool.
“What are you on about? I was just talking with–”
“Don’t you see how it looks?” I tried to explain. “He gives you fish, puts his hand on your shoulder…” I paused. “You’re my girlfriend, Myori. You can’t be letting guys give you gifts like that. You’re not single anymore. You’re mine now. And I’m yo–”
“I’m yours?!” Her face flushed and her eyes narrowed. “What is that supposed to mean? You think own me?”
“N-no, that’s not what what I meant. We’re together now… two parts of one whole. I don’t want anyone to come between us.”
“I’m my own person!” Myori shouted. She stood up and pointed at me. “I can talk to anyone I want. It doesn’t mean anything. And you can’t tell me what to do, Roshi. If I want to eat fish with Nimon, I will!”
“I wasn’t trying to tell you what to do!” I shouted back. “I’m just saying, it looks bad when you talk to other guys like that. We all know what he wants, anyways! We all know what he’s trying to do.”
“What he wants?” she repeated, a twinge of outrage in her once-sweet voice. “You mean, the same thing you want!” The color drained from my face. I tried to speak, but Myori raised her hands in the air. “No, no. I’ve heard enough. I know what you want. I heard what you said. But what I need right now is some space. So leave me alone, Roshi.”
With her chin held high, Myori marched off. I didn’t understand what had just happened. I had tried to speak to her, tried to reason with her, and it was her who had yelled back at me. I realized then just how stupid she was. Dozens of people had stopped what they had been doing to stare at me, their cold eyes boring though my skin, trying to glimpse into my brain. I realized how small I was then, how normal I was.
I found the old man on the far side of the camp. He was the one leading us up the mountains, to the promise of a temple shelter, safe from King Piccolo. “I’ll take the rear guard, make sure nothing sneaks up on us,” I told him.
In truth, I took the rear because I couldn’t be around people. The embarrassment of my last conversation was enough for me to want to be alone to mull over my thoughts. If I had stayed in the group, I might have punched someone. And I could not bear to see Myori amongst the crowd, there, but not there, with me, but not. We soon set out, up the mountain, and all I could think about was how Myori had betrayed me. Why had she talked with Nimon? What did I do to make her pursue him? I had been faithful to her. For three days, I hadn’t looked at other women. We were in love – or so I thought. What was she doing, playing with my heart like this? And Nimon, that snake, should have known better. What kind of man pursues a woman in a relationship? I wanted to kill him then. The rage inside of me wanted to see him suffer. I thought back to the blood and the screaming that had filled our temple so utterly when Piccolo’s minions had attacked. I wanted nothing less for Nimon.
The mountains rose in three peaks before us, like three wrinkled old men. Far ahead, I saw a waterfall descending from a wound in the central peak and wondered what it would be like to jump from there. Misery made me think a lot of things. By midday, the drizzling had stopped, and the sun shone hot and bright above us in a pock-marked sky. We trudged up the mountain trail at a snail’s pace. The longer we went, the larger the mountains looked, the more they seemed to sneer over us little mortal things trying to climb them. Above, in the grim-blue sky, an eagle circled us and cried.
By evening, the group had made it past the waterfall, across an old wooden bridge, and begun making camp on the far side. I stood on the other side of the bridge, watching the sun sink out of sight, its last fleeting rays shimmering orange and pink. The roar of the waterfall kept me company.
The broken city was a tiny little thing when viewed from halfway up a mountain. I wondered how many of Piccolo’s spawn were in there at that moment, hunting and killing innocent people. The thought of that made me angry. Why couldn’t Myori and I just be happy together?
I fell to my knees and let out a low shout. Tears came to my eyes. No matter how hard I fought it, the obligation I felt towards those cursed, guiltless people in that city would not die. I tried so very hard to be normal. I fought it. And like the night against King Piccolo, I lost. I heard a bird squawk loudly, though when I raised my head, it was nowhere to be seen.
Reaching in my pack, I pulled out a long pipe and lit it as the day’s dying light fled from sight. I propped myself up against a rock and inhaled deeply, closing my eyes as I thought of what I had to do. It wasn’t easy having a conscious. It wasn’t easy being brave.
“We will never run from a fight! Honor, strength, courage! These things I will teach you, if you train under me!” my master had said once. They were nice words, but even he had run from King Piccolo. Even he had abandoned me after we escaped. Was it the shame that he could not defeat his enemy? I did not know. What I did know was that even if Mutaito’s school was in ruins, its members scattered or dead, its ideals lived on within me, whether I wanted them to or not. I couldn’t be like my master or Shen. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the suffering before me. And I was scared as I was weak. I knew it would be a long road before I could challenge any of the demon king’s spawn. But it was a road I had to tread.
“Hey… it’s Roshi, right?” Nimon’s voice cut the silence like a delicate knife. I opened my eyes and exhaled.
“Nimon,” I nodded back. I wanted to hit him; I knew I should not.
“Right, yeah… look man, I just wanted to say – y’know, I didn’t know you and Myori… that you two were… well, what I mean is, she asked me to catch a fish for her. I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. She came to me. Y’know? When you showed up, I…”
“If you see her, tell her it’s over now,” I said slowly before inhaling again. I had tried to be normal, but that time was done. I didn’t understand it; it made me feel embarrassed. I wasn’t suited for that life. All I could see myself becoming was a lonely old hermit in a far-distant land, away from people. So be it. I exhaled.
“S-so, you mean… I can…” he shrugged, implying through gesture.
“Do what you want. I won’t be coming back.”
“Really? Why? I mean, even if it’s over between you and Myori, there’s still a place for you in camp…”
“Have fun with her, Nimon. Myori’s one hell of a girl.” My face was stony amongst the smoke. But when Nimon realized he could not sway me, finally said his goodbyes, and turned away, the tears came as if released from a floodgate and it took all I had to wipe them away without giving in to them. I had loved her once. It had been so easy to love her, so easy to give in to my emotions. It was so much harder to let go, to realize love doesn’t solve anything.
I watched him cross the old wooden bridge, humming to himself, oblivious to my pain, and it suddenly occurred to me how rotten the world was, and how powerless I was to change it. I dropped the pipe, pushed myself up, and ran after Nimon, my hand already hardening into a fist.
I came to the bridge at full sprint, and when I set foot on the first wooden plank, it splintered and cracked. I felt myself lurch forward, and then I was falling, falling down the mountain with water all around me. I don’t think any of them knew what happened to me. I don’t blame them. I don’t remember hitting the water at the bottom. I only remember waking up on the shore, alone and hurting and cold.
Honor, strength, courage – I had none of them. I was a foolish, overcome with emotion and pride. Those follies would be my end if I did not learn. But I would, I promised then and there. And as I lay at the bottom of the waterfall, an eagle landed next to me and plucked a fish out of the water fast as lightning. It swallowed the thing whole and then screamed, its yellow eyes fixated on me.
“You want to eat me too?” I asked it. “Well here, come on then!” I waved a bruised and pinkened hand at it.
The eagle broke its gaze and flew off.
I sat up, trying to get back onto my feet. The fall had weakened me further, and now my bones ached like I was an old man. That made me laugh. Me, an old man. I couldn’t imagine that. I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. There was much to be done. And by the time it was over, maybe I would be an old man. Or maybe I would be dead.
I hobbled away from muddy shore and found myself a path away from the mountains. Once, I had walked that path the other way as a traveler among mountains and streams, turning a blind eye to the horrors of the world. And now, though still I was a traveler, I was going the other way. My journey had only just begun.
Endnotes[edit | edit source]
- I named this story "Burning Man" to reference Roshi's state of being in this story. It references the Burning Man music festival of course, but has no actual relation to that. Roshi is consumed with emotion throughout this story, and the weight of the world is thrust upon his back, so in that sense, he's burning, being burned, and being made into more of a caricature than a real person.
- I wrote Burning Man in first person, while writing all of the other TWBT stories in third person, because "No One Else", the song this story is formatted with, is the only song on Weezer's Blue Album (the album my one-shot collection is based around) that is in standard tuning. Every other song on the album is tuned down 1/2 step. I felt like that was a distinct enough difference between "No One Else" and the other songs that I needed to reference it in my writing; so having Burning Man in first person seemed to be the most logical way to do that.
- I used the site Weezerpedia to help me grasp the themes of each of the blue album's songs and trivia about them that I could add into my one-shots. I also own a guitar music book for the album, and I would try to play each song quite often on guitar and piano when I was writing the one-shot related to that song. Playing the music myself helped identify tonal themes and whatnot. Basically, it gave me a "feeling" as to how the one-shot should go in terms of happiness, sadness, melancholy, etc. The emotion presented in each of the one-shots, and particularly this one, was greatly influenced by the emotions I felt while playing the songs.
- I did not listen to "No One Else" while writing the first section of this story. I did listen to it on endless repeat while writing the second section, though.
- The first three stories in this collection alternately start with "The sun..." "The moon..." "The sun..." on purpose. Starting this story at night was a purposeful contrast to the start of Glory and also allowed me to have two sections (which every Things Were Better Then story was supposed to have).
- Obviously, the first reference to the theme color is the description of the moon. I enjoyed called in it a pink sore, as if the sky is sick or wounded, which certainly reflects Roshi's state of mind and the current state of the human race as Piccolo and his minions are hunting them into extinction. This is the first reference to the sky in this story, and the colorful, yet melancholy descriptions of the sky certainly reinforce how Roshi is feeling in this story.
- I am proud of how the first paragraph came out in particular. The prose is elegant, descriptive, evocative. This is me at my best, in my opinion. It's certainly how I want to write all of my prose.
- Feeling the cold (and not being able to escape it while escaping most else) is a theme shared by Burning Man and Monster. The cold obviously means more, thematically, than just the actual temperature of the air.
- Myori's name is based on the Japanese word for exquisite beauty (妙趣). The word in English would be pronounced Myōshu. I changed it to Myori, as I thought that was a cool-looking name.
- Roshi going outside while everyone else is sleeping emphasizes his separation from them - he wants to be one of them, but he can't. He knows he's not. He's out there watching King Piccolo's demons ravage a city. He feels guilty that he's not protecting them. Roshi is built of a different stock. He's a hero, or at least has heroic qualities. Especially in his younger age, he is more overtly heroic, whereas when he becomes older, he becomes more of a hermit (though still with many a heroic quality!). This divide between what Roshi wants to be and who he knows he is is the central dilemma of this story - not his relationship with Myori. That is merely a consequence of the aforementioned dilemma.
- Roshi's memory in the first section is heavily influenced by the King Piccolo Wars flashback in the Dragon Ball anime. I had watched that scene just before writing that memory out to make it 100% accurate.
- What I think is one of the better things about this story is how Roshi's dilemma is supported by canon. Mutaito and Shen did abandon Roshi. They abandoned Earth. They left him to deal with King Piccolo (Shen urged Roshi to give up and hide like him). Roshi is more of a good guy than those two (though Mutaito hadn't actually fled, but instead retreated to come up with a better tactic - still, without telling Roshi this, he is guilty of putting despair in his two remaining students' hearts), and he struggles with what Shen told him to do throughout Burning Man. He doesn't know if he should give up - him watching the city burn shows that he's not fully convinced that joining a refugee group fleeing to the top of a large mountain is the right move, morally.
- The description of Myori's eyes was influenced by the description of Edric Dayne's eyes in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire.
- Part of Roshi's journey in this story is to reject and then re-accept Mutaito's training. His first and most serious rebellion is him getting with Myori. This is obviously because he has unfulfilled sexual desires (a hallmark of the later Roshi), but it is also him trying to exert personal agency and rebel against the strict moral code he had been brought up with. Seeing Mutaito's school fail against King Piccolo and his minions thrust serious doubts into Roshi's mind as to the worth of his master's teachings.
- The last paragraph of the first section is what references Burning Chrome. The quote from that story I reference is: "Her other palm came up to brush across the feedback pads, and it rained all afternoon, raindrops drumming on the steel and soot-stained glass above Bobby's bed". This particular line is extraordinary (far better than the rest of Burning Chrome). My teacher for the sci-fi class I took (which I had taken many months before writing this story) had focused in on this line and her analysis of it had greatly affected me and my sensibilities about writing. The writing in that paragraph is so subtle, yet it's beautiful and elegant, minimalistic, yet revealing. Basically, what it's saying is the two people had sex all afternoon, for the description of the ceiling over Bobby's bed implies that the man was lying on the bed all afternoon (and thus could look up at it all afternoon). This kind of subtle implication was what I really liked about the writing, and is what I tried to mimic in the last paragraph of the first section. That last paragraph basically has the same meaning as the paragraph in Burning Chrome. It subtly implies that they had sex all night (or at least Roshi had sex with a semi-sleeping Myori). Notice how Roshi describes the wind blowing all night (how could he know, if he hadn't been awake, and why would he have been awake if not to be having sex with Myori?). So this last paragraph fulfills all that I wanted it to. I think it's quite elegant, though the setting of Burning Chrome is a more beautiful one (an urban apartment during an afternoon rainstorm seen through a glass window is clearly more aesthetically-pleasing than a small nylon tent being whipped by wind at night on a mountainside).
- The second section opens with an atypical line "later than most". This was influenced by the Huragok from the Halo series named Lighter Than Some.
- Rain is another motif throughout TWBT. It has various meanings, and I won't divulge what they are here, but just remember that I say that it is raining when Roshi wakes up for a reason - that isn't just a random description. It serves a thematic purpose, just as it did in Monster and other TWBT stories.
- "I’d known her all my life, or, rather, three days, but it felt like all my life." - this line is very telling. It shows how desperate Roshi is to move on from Mutaito's school and his old life. However, his desperation to move forward with his life is still plagued with guilt, and him rushing into a relationship with Myori shows how scared Roshi is of falling back into his old ways.
- The scene where Roshi feels his hair growing back was influenced by a similar scene in A Front where Krillin also notices his hair growing back. The hair growing back is also symbolic of Roshi abandoning his warrior ways.
- Myori's hair is dyed pink to show a bit about her personality, her flair, and her rebellious nature (and notice the symbol of hair, with how it relates to personal agency with both Roshi and Myori). It is also reference to this story's theme color.
- The peach is usually a symbol of innocence in Things Were Better Then (it was portrayed like this in Glory, remember). So Myori holding a half-eaten one implies a lot about her character, very subtly, if one has paid attention to the Glory. One thing I wanted to with TWBT was to have the various one-shots play off one another; one can only glean the deeper meanings of them if they read all of the one-shots and become aware of the recurring themes, symbols, and motifs, and come to a conclusion about what those things mean.
- Roshi is very protective of Myori because he fears that if he loses her, he will lose everything. This makes him quite an asshole in this story - he thinks Myori is his, that she belongs to him. This is thematically related to "No One Else", which is a song about an over-protective dude (seriously, some of the lyrics are ridiculous with how controlling he is about his girlfriend). Of course, this portrays Roshi in a negative light, showing that he's not a perfect character. Roshi is the first non-child I wrote for in this collection, so his flaws are more obvious than they are in the younger, less conscious individuals. He is more certain about who he is, and when those personality traits are bad, they are more overt. But also realize that how Roshi reacts when he sees the man with his arm on Myori's shoulder is just a gut reaction. Also, he is probably right on some level - it's not okay for some random dude to be so intimate with Roshi's girlfriend. But Roshi doesn't handle it well. He is being quite sexist with his thought that Myori belongs to him. This also shows how underdeveloped his relationship skills and preconceptions are - all because he spent his early years in Mutaito's school training and sparring instead of learning about how to navigate a relationship in the social world.
- Nimon's hand falling from Myori's shoulder when Roshi appears subtly hints that Roshi's worst fears are actually true - she is perhaps cheating with him. However, I think I did a good job of portraying both sides in a way that makes them both have good and bad aspects about them. There is no clear-cut "good" side to this conflict. That should disorient the reader and make them question who to root for.
- Myori is certainly acting weird about Nimon. It seems like they are both flirting with one another in front of Roshi - that is how Roshi takes it, and from his unreliable narrator, that is what the readers are led to believe. However, looking at the symbol of the peach, perhaps Myori is just an innocent person who is having some innocent fun. There is no definitive answer to this.
- The rosewater is another reference to this story's theme color. The constant face-flushing is, as well.
- Nimon's name was a pun on something, but I don't remember what that was.
- Roshi was going to say "I'm yours" before Myori cuts him off. This idea of "I'm yours and you're mine" is more of a marriage thing, but it's ironic that Myori cuts him off, because she doesn't understand what he's trying to say by interrupting him. However, that's not to say that what Roshi was saying was good to begin with. He was certainly trying to subvert her agency.
- In general, I don't like writing romantic drama. It was difficult for me to write the scene between Sephra and Grandpa Gohan in chapter 4 of Ain't No Hero, and it was equally difficult for me to write the fight between Myori and Roshi in this story. I tried to make it go by as quickly as possible, which is why Myori cuts Roshi off from responding when she says she needs some space. However, reading this over for this anthology, I am pleased with how it turned out. I don't generally like to read or write this kind of stuff, but I think it's short enough and the dialogue is superb, which makes reading it (for me, at least), quite pleasant.
- Roshi not understanding what happened in the fight, being shocked by how quickly it escalated, is based off of my own experiences with arguing with my significant others.
- Roshi calling Myori stupid is extremely mean of him, and it shows how hurt he is. He lashes out - I don't think he thinks she is really stupid, but he just thinks that to help him cope with the pain she had given him, to get back at her a little, to minimize what she had said.
- One thing I really had fun with while writing this story was not really spending too much time on the actual journey they are going on up the mountain - the figurative journey of the characters is far more important. But piecing together the clues, the readers should be able to see that Roshi has joined a group of refugees from the burning city off in the distance who are fleeing up the mountain to a sanctuary. The old man says there's a sanctuary, at least. It is unknown if there really is one up there.
- Roshi taking the rear so he doesn't have to be around people is based off of my own personality. I don't like to be around others when I've been embarrassed or am in a lot of emotional pain.
- "And I could not bear to see Myori amongst the crowd, there, but not there, with me, but not." - this is another example of the blending of the binaries also seen in the previous TWBT stories.
- The mountain the group is climbing was physically based off of the mountain in Fan Kuan's above-mentioned painting.
- Roshi saying that he and Myori had been in love is not true - he just doesn't understand what love is, and he's desperate. He wanted to get with her quick and have her comfort him and his mental scars. It's almost laughable how he says he's been with her for three days and then considers that to be a long time.
- Roshi wanting to do to Nimon what King Piccolo and his minions had done to his fellow students of Mutaito shows how truly enraged he is and also shows him at his darkest moment in the entire story. He's almost succumbed to King Piccolo's level, from a mental standpoint. This shows how King Piccolo has almost beaten him - if not by taking his life, the demon king has influenced Roshi's morality and made him a more ruthless, numb person.
- The reference to the three peaks/three wrinkled old men is a reference to Fan Kuan's painting and the symbolism of the three peaks being Buddha-like figures. The waterfall is also a reference to that painting.
- The hot sun in the pock-marked sky shows the change in Roshi's disposition and emotion. Those pock-marks are deep wounds. In the previous scene at night, the sky's wounds more older, less deep, looking like they were close to being healed. Not so in the second scene.
- The eagle represents virtue and Mutaito's courage.
- Roshi refusing to cross the bridge with the rest of the group was a fun moment from an aesthetic point-of-view, as it has plot and symbolic implications that play off one another.
- The setting sun leaves the sky orange and pink - an accurate-looking sunset, at least where I live. It also is another reference to this story's theme color and has subtle thematic meanings too.
- Roshi seeing the city as so small minimizes its significance to him.
- Roshi gets angry because he knows that he is feeling guilt about abandoning the city to Piccolo's spawn. He wants to be happy with Myori, because that would have given him an excuse (and even some happiness) to not be the hero.
- The eagle being around Roshi as he realizes he can't abandon the people is no accident.
- I have Roshi smoke a pipe, since I believe he does so in the anime/manga at least once. Even if he doesn't, he seems like the kind of guy who would do that. This reminds me of the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf and Bilbo are sitting and smoking pipes together as they reflect on various things. Certainly, Roshi is trying to do the same thing.
- "It wasn’t easy having a conscious. It wasn’t easy being brave." - these two lines pretty much define Roshi's entire struggle. He wants to be normal. He wants to be a refugee. It would be easier that way, less painful. But he knows that's not who he is, and no amount of pretending or getting a girlfriend will change his conscious or moral compass. Roshi is who is he, and he can't do anything about that.
- Roshi reflecting on Mutaito's words with a very worldly, cynical perspective is one of my favorite parts of this story. It shows that he has grown in certain regards, even if he's immature in other areas. King Piccolo has made Roshi a cynic, if nothing else. That bit of character development was important for me to show - I wanted there to be major consequences for King Piccolo's attack on Mutaito's school. Roshi is quite changed by that encounter, and all of his problems in this story stem from that battle. I'm not suggesting it would have been better if Roshi had died in that battle (to escape all the pain and misery it's brought him), but it would be bad writing to not have Roshi changed for the worse by such an experience. Burning Man is my attempt to show Roshi fight and overcome that mental struggle that King Piccolo has thrust upon him. King Piccolo isn't even in this story, but his presence looms heavily.
- Nimon reveals that Myori came to him. Likely, he wanted to mate with her, but he didn't know Roshi was her boyfriend (thus, he removed his hand from her shoulder in shock when Roshi suddenly appeared). This casts Nimon in a better light so late in the story, when expectations have built him up to being a terrible person beforehand (you must not trust unreliable narrators!). Still, this only further clouds Myori's own motives. Why did she go to Nimon? Did she want to cheat? Was she just being innocent? Who knows. It's not revealed in this story and is left for the readers to decide.
- “If you see her, tell her it’s over now” - this line references a lyric from "No One Else".
- "All I could see myself becoming was a lonely old hermit in a far-distant land, away from people." - I had much fun with this line.
- Roshi crying for Myori because he loved her (or thought he loved her) while at the same time rejecting her is him showing a measure of maturity that he has up to that point lacked.
- I like the line that says it's so easy to love and so hard to let go. I personally think that's true.
- I wasn't originally intending for Roshi to attack Nimon, but I felt like the second scene was just ending with a whimper, and it needed some flair, some patented DBZ emotion in it. So Roshi gives in again and rushes at Nimon. I think this was a good idea to put in, as it fleshes out and makes Roshi's personality more complex. Even when he realizes what he needs to do, he lacks the resolve to be a virtuous, completely noble person. In effect, he's human.
- "and it suddenly occurred to me how rotten the world was, and how powerless I was to change it." - this line was influenced by a story called Brownies by ZZ Packer.
- Earlier in the story, Roshi wondered what it would be like to fall from the mountain. This foreshadowing actually pays off as he trips on the bridge and falls through an old plank.
- Roshi only survived the fall because he landed in water.
- The turn in this story is particularly interesting because Roshi goes from being lost, to regaining his virtues, to again questioning if he's a good person. That last turn is highly atypical in fiction, and it is what makes me really love this piece I created.
- Notice how the eagle eats a fish - and Nimon gave Myori a fish earlier in the story. This is a reoccurring motif, to be sure. As to what it means in this context (as well as what the fish Myori asked Nimon to catch for her means), that is up to the reader to decide.
- Roshi's pink hand is a reference to this story's theme color.
- "The fall had weakened me further, and now my bones ached like I was an old man. That made me laugh. Me, an old man. I couldn’t imagine that." - I had much fun with these lines too.
- Roshi running his hand through his hair implies that he's going to cut it - a far cry from what he was thinking the last time he brushed his hand through his hair. I mentioned this because in the anime flashback of the King Piccolo Wars, when Mutaito does eventually return to Roshi, Roshi is in a cave somewhere, meditating and completely bald. So subtly implying he will cut his hair again is me showing that Roshi is going to return to Mutaito, despite finding how broken and imperfect he is. That he does so in spite of all of that is where Roshi shows his true resolve and courage. He knows even if he is the last one, he will defend the Earth to his dying breath. And that, to me, is quite noble.
- "Once, I had walked that path the other way as a traveler among mountains and streams, turning a blind eye to the horrors of the world." - this line obviously references Fan Kuan's "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams". The emphasis on Roshi calling himself a traveler in the last paragraph also hints at this painting.
- This story ends on a bleak note, in my mind. While Roshi has reformed to go out and right the wrongs in the world, he is so far away from accomplishing anything. From our vantage as readers, the ending is cold and desolate. Roshi has a lot of pain and hardships to go through that we can only imagine - and by imagining them (for to not imagine them would be to ignore the ending), the emotion of the entire end of the story is shifted towards misery and pain. Still, the misery and pain is for a good cause. Life is melancholy; and I wanted to evoke that feeling at the end of Burning Man, even if, on the surface, the story appears to end on a high note.
I can't believe how many endnotes I wrote for this story. It is way more complicated than I remembered it being. The prose is very good here; elegant and badass when it needs to be, emotional and tonally variable in other places. Roshi's struggles are highly realistic and not fully resolved, which is something I like. Really, Roshi's entire struggle through this story was awesome, in my opinion. This is the first time I've read Burning Man since completing it, and I can say with certainty that it is a good deal better than I remembered it. The complexity of the themes, the motifs, the symbols, the character arcs, motivations, and even the dialogue scenes are all excellent. When I was preparing to do this anthology, I considered Burning Man one of the weaker stories in Things Were Better Then, but now that I've read it again and analyzed and explained what I've written, I've realized how skillfully-done it is. I'm not sure any other writer on this wiki could write something like this. I'm not trying to be arrogant, but I think it's true. I'm still a little shocked I wrote this myself. Seriously, the complexity and emotion of this story is just awesome. Overall, I'd give Burning Man an S-.
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Part 47 ---->