He's a Baaad Man was DLC for The Black and White Collection, and was serving as the "good", or white story, being opposed by Black as Blood as the "bad", or black story. It was fun to play with what it means to be a villain, what is good and evil, what is truth, what is right, what is good, what is good for someone all in this story. I was big into the Beatles in this story, particularly side 3 (and a bit of side 4) of the Beatles' White Album. That had marked influence on this story as well.
I knew from the beginning that I would be experimenting with form, with having fragmented, little snapshots for each scene. This was influenced by literature classes I took, focusing on minimalism and stream of consciousness style. I suppose Virginia Woolf was a major influence for this story.
The focus on "Pink Shirt Saga" Vegeta, as it were, was something that I had long wanted to do. I always liked the dynamics between Vegeta and Bulma, and especially rewatching these scenes in 2015 in preparation for His Majesty's Pet, I really grew to adore how they were lightly courting each other. With that said, this story actually takes place much later, during their one-night stand, when Vegeta got Bulma pregnant with Trunks. But it's basically the same stuff going on here. I have always been bewildered by Vegeta and Bulma's relationship. In many ways it seems very unnatural, but more from Vegeta's perspective than from Bulma's in truth. So this story is me working through that a bit, as well as exploring one of the most mysterious eras in Dragon Ball Z (for me personally).
Subtlety was again a focus in this one. I was really trying to move utterly into explaining actions and letting the importance of those actions be inferred, giving most of the story a stark tonality throughout.
This story marks the more-than-halfway point for A Short-Lived Dream. I think it holds qualities mostly of the first six, and less like the six that will follow, however. It is very light, with a minimalistic tonality in a similar way that Superior, Untouchable, and Small were written.
With that said, I want to say that this story works mostly in terms of broad strokes of emotions, like lines of paint brushed over one another. There is nothing else I can say about He's a Baaad Man.
“The deeper you go, the higher you fly! The higher you fly, the deeper you go! So come on, come on…!” The upbeat music blared from Dr. Brief’s ballin’ stereo system (which took up an entire wall of the living room) as Mrs. Brief fluttered about like a butterfly dusting the furniture.
“Gah… what’s that hideous noise? Is this what Earthlings call music?”
“Oh, Vegeta, there you are!” the blonde-haired woman sang sweetly, running over to him. “I was so worried about you! You stayed out all night! You must be tired from all your training! Do you want me to pour you some tea?”
“Hmph, don’t be ridiculous. A true Saiyan like myself would never be caught dead drinking your dainty Earth tea!” The Saiyan Prince marched past her to his room. He was bare-chested, loose bandages hanging from his torso and arms. Every step was agony, but he wouldn’t let her see him limp. Slamming the door behind him, Vegeta fell to a knee, groaning. He had overdone it again today. But he was close – so close – to becoming a Super Saiyan, he could taste it.
Vegeta grit his teeth and found his feet and collapsed face-first on the bed. He was too tired to move. That was unacceptable. He was a Super Elite. Royal blood coursed through his veins. He had to be stronger. He had to beat Kakarot. There was no time for rest, and yet…
His eyelids were heavy. Dull-burning pain rolled across his wrist from where an errant ki blast he’d been practicing dodging in the gravity machine had grazed him. Someone was walking down the hall just outside his room. He heard another door slam to the left. That was the other woman – the blue-haired daughter. He hoped she wouldn’t barge in and nag him about training again. He was too tired to put up with her nonsense. Vegeta just wanted to be left alone.
The sun was just beginning to rise. He couldn’t sleep for long. The birds were singing. Sunlight was leaking through the blinds. “K-k-kakarot… I am a Super Saiyan…! Y-you’ll see… you’ll all see…! I… I’ll show you all the power of a t-true Saiyan…”
“Vegetaaaaa? Oh Vegetaaaa?! Wakey-wakey, dear,” Mrs. Brief called, banging on his door. “Lunch is ready! Come and get it while it’s hot!”
Awaking from a long and lurid dream, the Saiyan rolled over, grunting in pain. His body felt like it was on fire. “I-I’ll be out soon…” he mumbled, even as his stomach growled in protest. That was one pain he knew he could not ignore.
He thought he could smell her perfume in the air. Vegeta threw on some clothes, making sure to ignore that stupid pink shirt, and groggily made his way to the kitchen. He would not let them see him hurting. Vegeta held his chin high. He was the Prince of all Saiyans.
The blue-haired Earth woman was sitting at the table when he entered. She wasn’t wearing any make up. Looking up, she scowled at Vegeta, took her plate, and left the room. Yawning, he sat down, wondering if his body could withstand 500 times gravity.
“Oh, don’t mind her, dear,” Mrs. Brief said gently, setting a plate of food in front of Vegeta. “She’s just moping about.” Her voice fell to a hush and she put her hand in front of her mouth. “From what I heard, she broke it off with Yamcha last night. Oh heavens, it was so sad! My poor sweet Bulma!” The dramatic tone in the woman’s voice irritated Vegeta. “They had been dating for so long! I thought for sure he was the one!”
Mrs. Brief sat down opposite Vegeta and continued to yammer on. The prince had learned how to use a fork by now. Nappa would be proud. He ate as quickly as he could and then stood. The old woman was still talking. He hadn’t heard a word she’d said. Wiping his mouth, he stretched his neck and hobbled out of the room. The day was young. There was plenty of time yet to train.
The morning sun had been betrayed by a swarm of afternoon clouds. Dew was still on the leaves. The gravity training unit was the latest and the greatest of them all. Dr. Brief had sworn he’d spared no expense remaking it after Vegeta had destroyed the last one (the fifth one he’d manage to blow up accidentally).
With a sigh, the warrior pressed the gravity button, bringing it up to 450 times gravity. His bones ached. His resolve did not die. Gritting his teeth, all Vegeta could think of was the shining, golden figure of Kakarot. That mysterious boy with the sword was a Super Saiyan too. They were low-class trash. Why did they get to become Super Saiyans, and not him?
The gravity bore down on his shoulders. Groaning, Vegeta fell to a knee. His body was too weary to withstand this punishment. Why was he so weak? He couldn’t be so weak.
“Engaging,” the spherical drone declared in a robotic tone as it buzzed overhead. Three others joined it. “Level 10 protocol enabled.”
Vegeta wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. He shouted, drawing a white aura around him, and jumped into the air. Everything was pulling him back down. His muscles were burning. He created a ball of ki and threw it at the nearest drone, ignoring his pain. This was all worth it, he knew. Every moment of agony would push him closer to becoming a Super Saiyan. That was all that mattered.
Her voice was in his head as he trained, shrill as a whistling ki blast, and no matter what he did, he could not dodge it. The lights were dim red. Sweat ran down Vegeta’s face. He knew if she saw him as he was, she would yell at him, tell him to rest, call him a lunkhead, and doubt him. They all doubted him.
It was evening before Vegeta returned to Capsule Corp. The old man and his wife had retired to their quarters by then. Vegeta was not unhappy about that. He much preferred not having to deal with them. Toweling off his face, the Saiyan Prince walked back to his room when he found Bulma sitting on a couch in the living room. She had a book open in her lap. When he entered the room (just trying to get back to his own room), she looked up and scowled.
“Oh, it’s you. I’m not surprised. I could smell you from a mile away.”
“Very funny, Earth woman.”
It was a photo album. She still wasn’t wearing any makeup, but her blue hair was puffy and loose, and her eyes were sharp. There was a radiance in her cheeks, a shining glow he found almost as alluring as the gold of his dreams. He looked away defiantly. “I don’t even know why I bother,” Bulma said softly. “You’re stubborn as a mule. You know that, Vegeta? You’re going to destroy your body if you keep doing this. You need to get some rest,” she said. He knew she was talking about the bandages that hung loosely from his arms. The Earth woman had applied them herself and had ordered Vegeta to take a week off from training to heal up. He didn’t have the time. She didn’t understand. “Why don’t you just go?”
“Hmph.” Vegeta folded his arms. “I don’t take orders from anyone, especially you.” With that, he left her.
Bulma sat motionless, her eyes wide and watery, and all the prince could think of was how many more days it would take him to match Kakarot.
Vegeta stood on the ramp of his gravity training unit. He had just conquered 450 times gravity. Yet as he stood there, the wind rustling through his damp hair, he felt only emptiness. Was this what it meant to be a Super Saiyan?
“I am a Super Saiyan!!” he roared to the birds that mocked him with their songs. His aura flashed around him. His screams grew like a tempest storm. The heat rising in his body was not a Super Saiyan’s, he realized. Nothing was different. He was a bit stronger, a bit sorer, but he felt no different.
“Hey, what are you doing, Vegeta?!” Her tone was reproachful. His aura evaporated.
“Huh? What do you want now?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Bulma said, approaching him from the far gate, a grocery bag in her hands. “If you want to power up, go do it somewhere else. I don’t want you destroying my house!”
“Gah, you’re hopeless!” His face reddened. “I thought I told you I don’t take orders from servant women.”
“Oh yeah?” Bulma’s face narrowed in a frown. She looked gorgeous in the morning light. “Well listen to me buddy, I let you live here, so if you want to stay, you’re going to follow my rules! No training on the lawn! If you want to train, go somewhere else, or go back in that stupid ship Dad built for you. You like to spend all of your time in there anyways, so what’s the big deal?!”
“Hmph,” he grunted, folding his arms. She wore her hair long, and her red-and-black striped dress seemed to make her glow.
“Ugh, you’re so rude.” Bulma screwed up her face and stormed off. He followed her sorely, massaging his throbbing wrist. “Really, I don’t even know why I let you live here! You’re the most ungrateful blockhead I’ve ever met!” She was talking more to herself than him.
Dr. Brief’s cigarette smoke filled the inside of the house. Vegeta wondered why women were such strange creatures. This Bulma was as unpredictable as an Arlian beastmaster. He couldn’t deal with her now. Thinking only of how long it would take him to achieve Super Saiyan, the form he deserved more than anyone else, Vegeta turned from the angry woman, who was making her way to the kitchen, and limped to the shower.
Soap ran down his cheeks. He closed his eyes, remembering. Vegeta thought of a Saiyan boy, grey-eyed and tall-haired – his best friend. Vegeta had promised him they would become Super Saiyans one day, that they would free their race from the tyranny of Frieza. But that had never come to pass, and the boy was dead now. Vegeta hadn’t made another friend since. His hair slicked back under the weight of falling water. The shower was small, meant for a girl. His muscles bulged and he couldn’t move in the cramped little cubby. But he’d been used to this for a while.
He didn’t hear the door open behind him. Turning off the water, Vegeta grabbed his towel, slung over the shower door, and walked out into the outer bathroom. That was when he saw her. He couldn’t help but go red. His pride was screaming in his ears like a heartbeat.
“What are you doing here, woman?!”
She was leaning over the laundry basket in the corner. “Just looking for something I left in my other pair of shorts.”
“Get out!! Don’t you have any sense of privacy?”
Bulma stood up erect, looking at Vegeta. His chest was bare; his hair dripping wet. The towel was made of Egyptian cotton, as white as new-fallen snow. “Oh, Vegeta, you’re so dramatic. Chill out, I was just looking for something.”
“While I’m in the shower, huh?” Vegeta’s voice was deep. “What if it was the other way around?”
Bulma laughed him off. Stepping forward, she brushed her hand against his chest, just above a scar he’d gotten from training. “It’s not like I’d see anything I haven’t seen before, Vegeta.”
“U-uh… what’s that supposed to mean?” Now the prince’s whole face was going red.
“Oh Vegeta, you’re so naïve.” She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. Stepping away from him and turning her back to him, Bulma continued, “I still remember the first day you got here. Everyone was scared of you. They thought you were still evil, but I knew better. You weren’t evil… just a little rude. Well, I guess some things still haven’t changed.” She chuckled quietly. “I remember you called me your servant woman and couldn’t believe that men could wear pink shirts.”
“Pink is a girl’s color!” Vegeta roared pridefully.
She giggled softly. “That shirt was my father’s. He wore it when he took my mother out on their first date. Mom always said he had excellent taste…”
He could hear them even now: his father, his friend, Kakarot, Frieza, and all the rest, all swimming around in his head like a bunch of demons. He was a true Saiyan. Vegeta’s destiny was to become a Super Saiyan, to surpass that low-class fool who didn’t even know his own name. And now this Earth woman….
The door opened and closed, and Bulma was gone. The steam was dissipating. He dried himself off, found his usual training pants, and made his way back to his room.
She was standing in the hallway, observing a photo hanging from the wall across from Vegeta’s door.
“Everyone’s preparing for the androids, and I’m just sitting around here doing nothing…” Bulma whispered as he approached. “I feel so useless, like I can’t do anything to help.”
His blood was warm. His desires told him that only Kakarot mattered. A low-class Saiyan could not dare oppose a prince. It was beyond unseemly. He had purer blood than Kakarot. Vegeta deserved what that stupid fool had somehow managed to unlock. He wanted nothing so bad in the world.
Silence filled the hallway. Her parents had already gone to bed. Yamcha, that bloody fool, was no longer around.
“Y’know, when I was little, my sister and I would always read stories about handsome knights saving beautiful princesses from horrible monsters and evil men. We swore we’d find ourselves husbands like those knights from the tales. She believed it more than me, I guess, but it was a pretty thought. I thought–”
He stepped up to her and spun her around. Her blue-green eyes fluttered and grew large. He held her chin. Looking up at him, Bulma was like a timid little girl, not the woman who loved to boss him around. He thought of Kakarot and his wife, of Frieza’s ship and the loneliness he had wallowed in there. He felt the tyrant’s death beam pierce his heart again. He thought of his father, his friend, his kind. He had his pride. Vegeta was a warrior, a Saiyan Elite. He would become a Super Saiyan.
But not today.
Leaning in, his cheeks flushing, Vegeta’s mouth found Bulma’s, and he felt her kiss him back. Her lips tasted like strawberry pie. Closing his eyes, he thought no more of who he was, or how he’d gotten here.
- The title of this story came from Stephen A. Smith's nickname for Aaron Rogers. It's slightly sarcastic, poking fun at the binaries of black and white in The Black and White Collection.
- The opening is a reference to Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey by the Beatles, a song I was super into at the time.
- The first section was highly based on "Pink Shirt Saga" Vegeta's life, and how he was acting and stuff. I put a few things in to show the cracks forming, how the front he's putting on is not going to be able to last much longer, and how he already fears that Bulma may crack it, though the way he rationalizes it is non-sexual.
- The trail of Vegeta's thoughts in the second scene is extremely important.
- Bulma not in make-up is very much like Vegeta all beat up and sore from a hard day of training.
- In canon, Bulma broke it off with Yamcha (after he cheated) before her one-night stand with Vegeta. I figured that she would rebound on Vegeta hard very quickly, due to her earlier interest in him, which she didn't even try to hide.
- Bulma's mother's personality is influenced a bit by my friend's mother's personality, I think. I'm kinda like Vegeta, but he's way meaner and bolder than I could ever be.
- "The prince had learned how to use a fork by now. Nappa would be proud." - I think this is in reference to how His Majesty's Pet used to have a chapter called "Nappa's Glorious Fork", but I ended up getting rid of that chapter when I got around to writing HMP.
- Man there's so much irony in this story.
- Emotions are being painted in wide, gentle strokes, like Woolf does, I think. Perhaps I'm mis-remembering, but I think that's the case. Vegeta's attraction to Bulma is being beautifully portrayed because it is being done in the negative, through emptiness, through the lack of addressing specific emotions that he is clearly experiencing.
- "Her voice was in his head as he trained, shrill as a whistling ki blast, and no matter what he did, he could not dodge it." - this sentence alone could be this story, if I had to reduce it so.
- Everyone is their own protagonist. Vegeta's still stuck in that mode of thinking at the end of the second scene. It's interesting. He's talking like he is in that scene, and he reminds me of his five year old counterpart in His Majesty's Pet, which I'm writing right now. His dialogue almost perfectly mimics his younger self. He's gotta let go. He's not the space mercenary he once was. Pink Shirt Vegeta is someone entirely differently, but at least he doesn't have a mustache.
- Birds and birdsong are a huge recurring theme in A Short-Lived Dream. I didn't realize I had used them with such widespread reach in these earlier stories.
- Vegeta's aura evaporating when Bulma yells at him hints at impotence, at her dominance over him.
- "She looked gorgeous in the morning light." - this is a very important line. This is the first time Vegeta gives into his feelings and admits reality. It's also brushed over - he doesn't linger on this thought, which is awkward and shows that he's kind of just falling for her in stages, and it's almost happening against his will, in direct defiance of his pride.
- The Arlian filler with Vegeta and Nappa is godly and is canon to my universe.
- Aw, Vegeta was thinking about a pretty neat Saiyan, wasn't he? I'd forgotten I put that in. That's awesome.
- Shower scenes are, if anything, underrated.
- One of my goals with this story was indeed to tell the history of the pink shirt, yessir.
- Vegeta's struggle of being a prideful warrior and having a family is still perhaps his most significant character conflict, even in the most recent Dragon Ball Super arc, so I'm not sure he'll ever get over it.
- Man, the ending is really summing things up better than I could do in commentary. I don't really know what to add other than Vegeta's conflict is one that is more subtle than people might imagine. His emotions react in these broad, sweeping, sudden, but gentle maneuvers. I dunno, I almost feel like Aku might have influenced me a bit with this story's end. It's kind of weird, but I like it.
This story is a good deal better than I thought it was going to be. The prose is really quite nice, and the even more minimalistic, unadorned style, when compared to earlier ASLD stories, is interesting to me. I don't think it's the best prose I've ever done, but it's quite satisfying nonetheless. I would also say that Vegeta's characterization, as well as Bulma's, Mrs. Brief's, and even Mr. Brief's (although we're getting into literary bullshit theory with him, I suppose) was all quite nice to experience. This story really was experiencing emotions in waves, some recurring, some popping up and dominating what was once expected. It's a more gentle story than I remember too. But I really like it. This is an excellent one-shot, in my opinion.
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Part 78 ---->