Mountain Bird was the final story I came up with and wrote for Ikigai. For the longest time, I did not know what this story would be. I had a Beerus story called Fancyfeast in this slot for just over four months, but knew early on that I wasn't going to write that for Ikigai (that story eventually was released in Vöntun as The Naptime Championships). However, finding a replacement for it was easier said than done.
It wasn't until I was finishing up my writing and editing of The Monster and the Maiden that I came up with the idea for this story (I replaced Fancyfeast on the Ikigai page with this story after posting the first three sections of TMATM, but before I completed that story). The first name for this story however was 素晴らしい神様, which is in Japanese. It means "excellent god". I might've renamed it to the romaji version, Subarashii Kamisama had I actually kept that name. Subarashii was Zamasu's favorite phrase outside of ningen. I didn't come up with the name "Mountain Bird" until May 31, 2020, two days after completing The Monster and the Maiden.
I believe I came up with this story because, at the time, I was watching through Dragon Ball: Super for the first time. My anthology for Spaceball indicated that at around this time, I was going through DBS for the first time, at least. I would not have written about about Zamasu if I had not watched his saga in DBS. That might have been partially why it took me almost two weeks after TMATM was completed to complete this one, for watching a 30 episode saga (not to mention the episodes that came before it) cannot be done very fast.
In any case, I wanted to write a story about Zamasu. As I am wont to do, I explored Zamasu from the perspective of a fanon character, Dekiru. I needed Dekiru to disappear, however, for he is not in Dragon Ball: Super. So that was how he ended up in Universe 7. Once he was there, I needed him to do something relevant to my universe, so I had him be the one to purchase Linessi's freedom. Earlier in the story, I also had Dekiru and Zamasu explore some of the other universes, as Dragon Ball: Super was very new to me at the time and this was the first time I had the chance to explore places outside of U7. In some ways, because of that, this story feels like a precursor to the Vöntun style.
I began working on this story on June 4, 2020. I wrote the first scene and about three lines of the second scene that day. On June 5th, I edited the first scene somewhat. I didn't work on the story again until June 7th. That day, I wrote most of the rest of the second scene, but did not finish it. I continued working on this story on June 9th, though I only managed to write a few more paragraphs that day. June 10th was when I got my act together. I wrote the rest of the first draft of the story that day, probably spending around 3 hours in total working on it (though it took me the whole day, because I was taking many breaks). I then edited the story on June 11, 2020, from 1:09 pm to 4:46 pm (taking a one hour and seven minute break near the beginning of that) and then posted it to the wiki eight minutes later.
This story is interesting to me in that it doesn't feel like the end of Ikigai to me. The pacing, the thematic content, and the level of difficulty I had writing it place it firmly in the middle of this collection for me. The Monster and the Maiden was the big one, the one that felt like me using up all my creative juices to complete. In contrast, Mountain Bird is fairly straightforward. It does not utilize stream-of-consciouness. Perhaps its parallel story is Girl, for they lightly deal with similar themes overall. This story is not based on me personally, though, so it will not be as difficult of a re-read. Its thematic content is slightly less deppressive than Girl, but that is not to say that this is an optmistic, happy story like The Monster and the Maiden. In any case, it's time to get to the endnotes.
“It is too bitter,” Teamaster Nagamasu said, wiping his mouth. “And too salty. It will not do. You will try again tomorrow, Zamasu.”
The apprentice bowed, his cheeks running hot. He pulled his cart back. The tremendous Kaiju tree they were standing under swallowed him in its chill. “Please accept my apologies, Master,” he said delicately. “I will do better next time.”
“If you wish to have any hope of becoming Gowasu’s successor, you will,” the purple-skinned man replied. “That old man likes nothing more than his tea – well, almost nothing.” Not waiting for a reply, the elder Kai turned his attention to Dekiru, the other apprentice in training. “Now you. Come forward.”
Dekiru’s cart tilted lightly to the left amidst his otherwise graceful approach. “Master, the tea I have prepared for you today comes from the Jihan region of Loru Qir. This flavor is known as Green Liani.” Placing the tea cup on Nagamasu’s table, Dekiru’s slender fingers showed not the slightest hint of tension.
“I have not heard of such a flavor before. Is it imported?”
“From Universe 7.” Dekiru poured the steaming liquid into his master’s cup, bending over the table, making no movement in excess. Zamasu could not see its color from where he stood.
“Its aroma is rather sweet, eh! Is there anything else I should know about it before I taste it?” The teamaster was bent over his teacup, sniffing carefully.
“I do not believe so. Taste it if you like. I hope I have prepared it to your standards, Master.”
The slender blue boy pulled away, holding Zamasu’s attention. His cheeks burned with shame.
“Ah, it’s warm. Sweet. A little earthy.” The man’s tongue was flicking against his lips in such a way that nothing more needed to be said. “Light on fragrance, but still detectable.” He leaned back, wiping his mouth. “Your sensibility is refined, Dekiru. Yes. Gowasu would enjoy this.”
Dekiru bowed, expressing no emotion. The teamaster was not wrong about him. “I am happy to have pleased you, Master.”
His cart creaked its way back.
“I wish to try more like that.” The teamaster wiped his mouth. “For tomorrow, each of you will bring me something foreign, something new. Do you understand?”
Teamaster Nagamasu had only one eye – the other had been lost in what the old Kai had called an ‘unexpected tea bother’. He’d spilled some on him, or so he’d said, but rumor around the tea grounds had it that he had lost it one night to a starved space cockroach.
“Do we have permission to enter the other universes?” Zamasu asked.
“Use the technique I taught you. Instantaneous Movement.”
“Yes, Master,” the said together, bowing politely. Their carts shuffled, the teacups squeaking against one another as the two left their master for the day.
A breeze was swimming through the great Kaiju trees. Flower blossoms carried between Zamasu and Dekiru, the latter leading them back, in a whirling trail. Their fragrance lingered in Zamasu’s nose. His vision was green and blue and violet and green; the heat rising in his chest could not be quenched by so feeble a breeze as this.
“Following me, are you?” Zamasu asked tersely.
“I already brewed this world’s tea fo–”
“There is more than one flavor of tea,” Zamasu interrupted. “Go find your own.”
Hovering above the stone buildings, they looked down upon the mortals with detached revulsion. The streets were almost empty this time of night, and only few of the airlights hovering about were working. There was only one group of them – a ragged band of savages trampling down the road like a pack of trained hunters. They were chasing one of their own.
“Come with me.”
“I have not yet chosen the flavor I will present to–”
He felt the chill on his skin. They had surrounded the runner, who had collapsed in the middle of the road. Thick-chested and four-eyed, the larger mortal, green as scum, crushed the skull of the smaller one with a vicious stomp. Flashes of light rippled in the upper atmosphere. Piloted vessels were entering and leaving Loru Qir at rapid pace.
“Look at them,” he sneered. “Mortals.”
Dekiru could hardly bother to glance at them. They meant nothing to him. “Zamasu…”
The lowering intonation – he spread his arms, frowning slightly, making sure they could see him. “Mortals!” he repeated, descending to the pavement.
The ravaged corpse was abandoned, heat rising from the cobble-rushing flow of blood. “Who goes there?! The fuck dya–”
Balls of energy materialized between his fingers. “Savage beasts,” he muttered. “They dare disgrace our presence with their filth?!”
He released the glittering bubbles from his fingertips. Most of them screamed.
Blasted stone rained down around Zamasu, blanketing the streets in a fine white powder. There were no signs of the mortals.
“You’re going to get us in trouble,” Dekiru said coldly. The moonlight was on his chin as he looked down upon Zamasu.
He patted his shoulders, sending puffs of whiteness into the still night air. “No one will care.”
“One of us is going to be the next Supreme Kai. A Supreme Kai is a God of Creation, not Destruction.”
His hand clasped around Dekiru’s wrist. The night’s breeze had carried him in an instant; even the other acolyte had been surprised. No one was as strong or swift as Zamasu amongst the gods. He was without equal. An alien with difficulty maintaining his balance was dragging his feet down the street. His species was different from those Zamasu had reduced to crater dust.
Two Kais hovered over the empty streets, and the lone alien that could have seen them never bothered to look up. Dekiru’s stare was withering. He took the lead, as he always did. His sight was for a whirling moment only raw light. When it faded, the Kais were in someplace altogether different.
There was some daylight left here. A familiar violet colored the sky. “Where are we?”
“Universe 3. Don’t tell me you have never been here before, Zamasu.”
“But why here?”
“They have collected the most delicious flavors of tea from around the twelve universes in that building over there.”
Golden beams of sunlight slanting through Kaiju branches and Dekiru… “Dekiru… They will know we’re here. If Teamaster–”
“They won’t. Not if we’re fast.”
This time, Dekiru took Zamasu’s hand, and they were flying through the sky – the alien sky of another universe that did not seem all that alien to Zamasu. Ahead was a building complex, like an ancient castle, that appeared not unlike the teamaster’s training grounds back home. They touched down; no one was around. A dull wind was blowing through the empty buildings. Dekiru led them down a paved road to a building blanketed in indigo shadows with a locked crimson door. He flicked his wrist and the door unlocked, swinging open on its own.
His fellow acolyte closed the door behind them. Floating crystal lights bathed the room in dull purple light. Dust-laden shelves of neatly-packed tea boxes covered every wall. “Tea,” Dekiru said softly, reaching out and plucking one box from the nearest shelf and holding it up. “Cundi Tea, from Planet Maoni.”
“You’re stealing,” Zamasu whispered.
The other Kai shrugged. “The current Supreme Kai of this universe does not like tea, so it is all going to waste. There is nothing worse than excess and waste, Zamasu.”
Sometimes, Zamasu forgot they were competing for the same position. Something hard and hot inside him twisted uncomfortably. He grabbed a box, not bothering to look at the name. “Does Nagamasu know this is where you get your tea from?”
His laugh was high and flittery, like a musical instrument. “Once I am the Supreme Kai, it will not matter. He will not figure it out before then.”
Zamasu’s cheeks flushed. Dekiru was almost daring him to go to the teamaster with this information. Why did the other Kai know Zamasu so well, know that he couldn’t…
The door swung open again, and a short, green-skinned Kai with a thin white mohawk and broad-rimmed glasses came in. There was something familiar in his face. He looked up at them coolly. “What are you two doing in here?” he asked pointedly. “This place is off-limits to everyone besides the Supreme Kai–”
“Then what are you doing here?” Dekiru replied, not backing down.
Zamasu was seized by a sickening feeling when he sensed the other Kai’s energy. There was something off about it, something familiar and strange and wonderful and horrible. “Dekiru…” he whispered, but the other Kai was not listening. He moved to confront the other man, whom Zamasu could see now, clearly, was wearing the attire of the North Kai of Universe 3.
The ease with which he stood against the glasses-wearing Kai made Zamasu’s throat constrict, his cheeks shiver with sweat, his fingers tremble beyond his control. He closed his eyes and was gone.
Pictures of both acolytes lay to the right of his steaming cup of tea. They were resting comfortably on Gowasu’s private photo album, which he never opened in public because he had named it his private photo album. “I have decided.”
Teamaster Nagamasu did not flinch. “Which is it, Gowasu?”
It had not been a difficult decision. His eyes fell on Dekiru’s picture. “Zamasu will succeed me as the next Supreme Kai of this universe.”
Under the shade of the tree, flower blossoms drifted lazily in the gentle air, a few shredded pieces landing in the teamaster’s hair. “Are you sure, Gowasu?”
The elder Kai took another sip of his tea, nodding. “Mmm,” he sighed, “what flavor is this? It’s exquisite.”
“Green Liani, the most delicious flavor from Universe 7.”
“It is very good.”
“In that case, the matter of my other pupil succeeding me…” the teamaster said, his voice rising with excitement, “May we return to–”
Gowasu was as immovable as a statue. “You have my permission to open your tea school.”
Nagamasu bowed efficaciously. The shade under the tree, the deepest shade of purple, was illuminated momentarily, and Gowasu was alone again. He drained his cup and held the two pictures up before his face, one in either hand. It was the correct decision, he knew. Zamasu was stronger than any Kai before him, a prodigy of untold power.
The other one, Gowasu thought, already forgetting his name, had never stood a chance. Nagamasu had had nothing but good things to say about the two, and if Zamasu could produce tea even half as good as that last cup, Gowasu would be satisfied.
The tree shook, spraying flower blossoms into the air. If there was ever to be a god in this universe, it would be Zamasu. He would need to be taught, of course, to be trained to be the perfect Supreme Kai. But that would not be difficult, especially with someone as precocious as him.
He had found the perfect successor. Gowasu stood. Several of the tree’s fresh blossoms had landed in his tea cup. He too was gone in a flash, and in the echoing light, the reverberations of his elegance enhanced everything that was, and then broke with overwhelming force, the calmness of that scene.
The tea cup was blown from the table by a gust of wind and shattered against the side of a rock half-buried in the grass.
“Thought I’d find you here.”
“We should have left as soon as he found us,” Zamasu snapped. “What if they tell Gowasu–”
“He was just an acolyte, Zamasu.”
“So are we.”
“Is that why you came here?”
The grey skies mixed well with the grey, blown-out buildings. Nothing moved. “I should have just taken a fresh batch from Loru Qir when I was there,” Zamasu said, ignoring him. “If he doesn’t like this flavor, it’ll backfire on me.”
“He will. He likes everything.”
“Everything you make.”
“What happened here?” Dekiru stepped over a half-destroyed wall into a fire-blackened building. “How long was it since our last–”
“Eight days,” Zamasu replied, holding his form, not looking at the other Kai. “The killer’s nearby. Can’t you sense him?”
“No,” admitted Dekiru. “Where?”
“The other side of the planet.”
“Zamasu, we’re not–”
He left amidst light.
Overgrown with wide-leafed tropical vines, curling orange, some abloom with coral flowering eyes, the buildings on this side of the world were yet untouched by mortal fury. In the air, a speck of mortality radiated power beyond what should have been possible for someone so base.
“Save him, Zamasu.” The other Kai was hot on his back, his breath caressing Zamasu’s neck. “Don’t you want to be the next Supreme Kai?!”
A God of Creation was what he had meant. The implication might have offended Zamasu had his mind not instead been occupied by the thought that he had never once considered what kind of god he wanted to be, only that he wanted to be a god – not a god, the only god of the universe, of all the universes. He swallowed, calming himself.
Still the dying mortal lay before him, one of the many victims of that distant figure in the greyness of the sky. Ash drifted down like lazy snow, the buildings smoking or still aflame, nothing in sight moving or living save for this one bleeding mortal.
The man was clutching at his heart, bright blue liquid dribbling out of a gash in his upper chest. His face was grey, his forehead indented, his ears abnormally fat, his eyes two chips of muddy ice. Zamasu kicked off into the sky. The alien’s power was notable, but it was nothing compared to that of this universe’s God of Destruction’s. In fact, it so paled in comparison that Zamasu became disappointed.
“What do you think you’re doing, mortal?!” he shouted at it.
The energy in its hand flung itself at Zamasu, who deflected it into a building with ease. The being looked almost lifelike, its mask of a face just ever so wooden in expression. Its rugged attire masked its artificiality well. It wasn’t entirely artificial, however. He had sensed its power, and now here it was before him, weaker than expected, but there – somewhere inside that sterile android shell.
“Your power is nothing compared to mine, mortal.”
“Ain’t that a bitch, got a real asshole on my hands, aha!” the thing spoke with a delayed croak. “Imma bleed you dry, pretty boy.” In the android’s hands, two daggers of ki formed.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked. From the corner of his eye, the Kai perceived a flash of yellow light, tasting almost of iodine. “Why kill your fellow mortals?”
“Fellow mortals?! I’m not one of those bastards!” he threw one of his blades at Zamasu, who vaporized it between his palms calmly. “I’ve transcended into godhood!”
The air crackled; the android moaned, spurting black blood from the hole in his shoulder. Zamasu lowered his finger. “Have you now?”
“I have evolved beyond the mortal prisons of flesh and bone! I am the greater being now, transcendent utterly from mortality! I am your god, mortal! Worship me!”
“Mortal? I’m the mortal?!”
The artificial warrior lunged at Zamasu, punching and kicking wildly, even as his blood continued to spurt out in a weakening stream. The acolyte parried the blows casually, his mind whirling. Blood was leaking from the joints of the ill-constructed attachments that were his fingers, those hopeless attempts at mimicking mortal form.
“I am the perfect lifeform. Die, meatbag!” Zamasu’s fist came to rest under the android’s chin. He froze in terror. “H-how… how did you…”
“Hmph, pathetic. You are just a mortal.”
The android’s face was not of the same species as this planet’s natives. His face was wide with tentacles sprouting from the top of his head, his three eyes placed closed together near the top of his forehead comically far away from his horizontal nose slits and lipless mouth. If he wanted to, he could open his eyes really wide, which he was doing now, to the point where it became uncomfortable to look upon. The knuckle of Zamasu’s middle finger twitched.
Dekiru arrived just as the android’s head exploded, his ill-fitted face cracking widely, collapsing in on itself, enshrouded in light, rising amidst a spire of blackened gore. The android’s body fell from the sky, landing with a dull thud in a crater.
They descended to the battle-pocked ground together in silence.
“Why?” The wind reeked of ash.
“He deserved it. I was bringing justice upon that murderer.”
“It is not our place to bring justice upon the mortals,” Dekiru told him firmly. “Have you not been understanding what Master Nagamasu has been teaching us, Zamasu? We observe, and do not interfere; we create, and do not destroy.”
“That beast called me a mortal,” he said, folding his arms. “He made me do it.”
“Zamasu…” Dekiru’s hand was on the back of of his head, tugging him gently, but firmly, around.
The green-skinned apprentice let out a heavy shuddering exhale. The other acolyte’s body was up against his now, one hand wrapped around his chest as he rested his chin on Zamasu’s shoulder. “N-not here…” Zamasu said feebly. “That one you saved, he’ll see–”
Their embrace broken, Zamasu threw himself into the coldness of the air, turning about to face that voice that he knew already. “What are you doing here, you two?” Martinu asked sharply. She was fat for an angel, short, but fierce. She had more strength in her than anyone else in this universe.
“Excuse us, please,” Dekiru said, bowing low. “We sometimes like to stop here for relaxation,” he explained, “but it appears that when we arrived, some deranged man was in the middle of destroying the planet.”
Gene was glaring at him. They were floating over the rubble, above the two Kais. His arms folded, his lips drawn together, the God of Destruction looked like he craved the opportunity to show them his worth.
“Where is he now?”
“The mortal is gone,” Zamasu said, looking up at them with more defiance than his fellow.
“You killed him?” Gene’s look kept nothing of its bloody intent hidden from them.
“He was destroying the beauty of this universe…” Zamasu began when Dekiru grabbed him around the shoulders and told him to quiet himself.
“Really?” Gene growled. “You think you have the authority to make that decision for my universe, Kai?”
“These two are from Universe 10, Lord Gene,” Martinu said. “They appear to be acolytes in training to become Supreme Kais.”
“You have your own universe to worry about,” Gene told them. “Don’t ever come back here!” A turquoise energy blast, teardrop-shaped and sleek, formed above his palm. He aimed it at them and prepared to fire. “If you do, I’ll destroy you. Don’t ever presume to kill one of my universe’s inhabitants again.”
“He was murdering–”
“Zamasu, shut up!”
Gene lowered his shoulder and thrust his energy at them.
Light erupted in his sight again, and he tasted the colors as he flew from that place in the embrace of the other boy.
“Where are we?”
“Why didn’t you take us home?”
“We have an hour until we must present ourselves to Master Nagamasu,” Dekiru said playfully. “And I was not done with you yet, my destructive little Kaioshin…”
He tugged at Zamasu’s lip with his finger. The world he had chosen was all lush forests, jagged mountains, and deep valleys, the air thick and humid. He was already sweating. They were standing on a mountain, on an overlook above a tucked-away little paradise of yellowish tree stalks and ice blue streams. The trees were thick with pinkish flowers, though the air had no fragrance to it.
In the distance, a creature five times the size of this world’s blue-burning sun was lumbering through the sky, its spread tentacles gliding over the trees, feeling, pushing, poking, but not supporting it – the creature could fly on its own. Its heads were numerous and rose on armored, silver-indigo, scale-stalked necks that grew ever more full of splendor when the sun hit them just right.
“What are you looking at, Zamasu?”
“There,” he pointed. “Look at the size of it, Dekiru. A mindless beast. Not even aware.”
“How do you know that?”
“If it were, it would be destroying those trees.”
Something fluttered in the trees above them – a bird, perhaps. Zamasu turned from the far-off creature, looking down the road they were standing in the middle of. The path had been made by something mortal, though a scattering of dry and rotting flowers, fallen from lofty branches, covered almost the entirety of the road. A gust of wind came sailing down the trail, whisking old flowers into the air and swirling them about the two.
In Zamasu’s hand was a raw bit of red energy, a dagger wrapped around his hand like a glove. Dekiru was on his back again, pushing against him softly, pleading soundlessly. Closing his eyes, Zamasu brought his hand up to his face in one swift motion.
The dust was thick enough to look like fur. “Are you sure, Lord Gowasu?”
“That one from Universe 7, yes.”
“Wh-why that one?”
“Hmm?” Gowasu studied his pupil intently. “Is there something wrong, Zamasu?”
“I’ll have that flavor today. Let’s see, it was something like Green…”
“That’s the one. Please brew some for me and bring it here.”
“As you wish, Master.” Zamasu bowed in the shade of the tree. Gowasu sat like a statue, unphased by the wind, his little table rocking gently, his tea cup wobbling slightly.
“Zamasu…” the Supreme Kai said, clearing his throat. “Do you remember what I told you after tasting your last cup of tea?”
He kept his emotions buried, as they should be. “Yes. Tea brewed by the pure-hearted is free of imperfections, and truly delicious.”
“Mm. Good. Do not forget that.”
The acolyte bowed hastily, low and respectful as he had been taught, and rushed out of there to fulfill his master’s wish. And yet, it would be erroneous, perhaps egregious, to state that he had tea on his mind at that moment – even a little. In fact, in that moment, what his master wanted to drink was the furthest thing from Zamasu’s mind. His throat was sticky with sweat. His elegant form faltered as he drove his cart away. He swallowed and gasped and wanted to do it right there, right at that moment.
It was like being punched, not feeling it, just seeing it being done: a flash of light, always rising like a bolt of energy from the night, wiping away his focus. If he was a god, why was he plagued by these thoughts? He sometimes wondered if that was the correct position to take on the matter. Was not his supreme godhood – unfiltered, untainted by his fellow Kais – in those flashes beneath his eyelids, in those desperate, begging attempts to get his attention and make him act?
The cart creaked as it moved slowly down the paved road. Whoever had paved the road had done a poor job of it. Maybe they had been a merchant, or a pirate prince. The road rose and curved and was forever uneven, and the cups and plates and kettles all rattled against one another in nervous laughter as Zamasu led them away.
The bloodiest (and therefore most popular) of the Galactrix Arena’s events was the yearly Premier League in which contestants were thrown against one another in bloody gladiator fights in increasing quantity, quality, and ferociousness. In every subsequent round, the stage would get smaller, more hazardous, and more profitable.
He had taken the blame and been forced to flee. This was an excellent universe. He liked its tea.
“And now… the three-time champion Linessi, Ulghir’s Blood, will face off against a new foe… some call him the the Flesh Goblin, others the Shittalker, and a few dedicated fans may remember him as the Arlian Pot-Licker from his old pit fighting days, but we know him around these parts simply as Toruk!”
The crowd roared. From the mists came the bird-like Toruk with blue, red, and black warpaint coloring his beak. His snout was long, his claws curled black, his feathers the deepest shade of crimson. He was a Cyren screamer, a rising warrior in the fighting pits, and one quite in need of a sponsorship. If he won this fight…
This was the best seat in the house. The executive suites were more like hovering hotel rooms positioned above the stage than anything else. Exclusive and expensive, these seats could only be afforded by sponsors with rather deep pockets. He sipped his tea calmly and placed it on the table.
Sharing the suite with him, in lower seats, were a young boy and an older man. The boy, who wore colorful robes of orange and blue, was a Faereth. The older man was brown-skinned, wrinkly, with long white hair and a flappy, crown-like appendage growing from his forehead. He wore faded and heavy armor, and he was clearly the boy’s bodyguard.
“Put a bet on Linessi!” the boy demanded. He was no doubt the son of some rich intergalactic banker.
“She’s got poor odds,” the older man complained. “And look how fierce this guy is, eh? He’s sure to win.”
“No, she will! She’s won thrice before!”
“I know a bloody thing about fighting and fighters, Master Morun. I spent fifteen years in those pits myself. I can spot a winner when I see him.”
“No, we’re betting Linessi! I wasn’t asking you! Do what I tell you!”
“You’re a talker,” the man complained. “Would you like another stick of glazed space duck, Master Morun?”
“No, just place the bet!”
He never said a word, never made a movement. At his hand was a touch-pad where he could place bets, make inquiries, and even offer contracts to the various fighters. In a deadly game such as this, contracts beyond a month or two were rare. And yet, Linessi had seemingly survived three entire seasons of this gauntlet already, and was playing it a fourth time.
His hand glided over the touchpad to her warrior profile information. Most of the information was about her fighting style – useless information to him. She was only twenty-two years old. He paused and re-read that sentence. Twenty-two. He had not misread it.
His fingers grew restless. It wasn’t unfeasible, but it wasn’t inexpensive either. Her severance price was more than five times what he had been prepared to offer Toruk.
The commentator introduced Linessi. He watched impatiently for one of them to make a move. Their stage was small, surrounded by lava, floating energy swords spinning through the air around them. They weren’t allowed to fly. This was truly a test of speed and instincts.
She was lithe, quick-footed, deliberate. Like Toruk, she was an avian. He could hardly keep up with her pace, to his shame. The touchpad on the table was a blinding light, begging him to press those buttons tied to his account, to drain his monetary assets, to be bold. If he waited until the end of the fight, the contract offer window would expire. That he had waited so long already had made the price get driven up more than 400%. But he had come for the Cyren, not Linessi.
The fight commenced; the aliens threw themselves against each other like feral predators, swinging claws and beaks and shrieking in bloodlust. His talons dug through her light armor, cutting her chest and shoulder. She twisted away violently, breaking free from the Cyren with a spinning kick and releasing a torrent of energy upon him like a stream of bubbles. Grunting in pain, he fell back, having to dodge one of the floating energy slicers.
She glided through the air, defying gravity with every move. The quickness of her pace was mesmerizing. The way she danced around him, twisting and turning, her hands ever punching or clawing or releasing energy, showed a level of military discipline he had thought impossible to find in such a place as this.
She spun about him. The blood fell from both of them. His fingers were getting impatient; a breathless anxiety was rising in his chest. He had come here with a plan, but now…
The smaller alien – the girl – blasted the Cyren in the side with a golden beam of energy. He bled and screamed, and she kicked him again and again. He had never seen Toruk handled like this; he was like a child compared to her. The touchscreen glared at him, enticing him. He could use someone like that. He glanced at the price. It was high, but then again, the client he had come here for was about to be killed. Better to not leave empty-handed.
“I’ll eat every glazed space duck in here if you don’t shut your fat hole!” the old warrior was complaining. The boy was smoking a stick of Nil, its fragrance reminding him of the bottom of the sea, whatever the hell that could possibly mean.
“I told you to place that bet, and now look! She’s winning! I could’ve made daddy rich!”
“You could have lost him a fortune. Don’t risk what you don’t have to, Morun.”
“I’m lucky! I’ve always been lucky, you should have listened to me!” the boy whined.
“Fuck luck,” the man said grumpily. “And fuck your father. You can find your own way home, you little shit.”
And with that, the old bodyguard stood up, spat sourly, grabbed the last two glazed space ducks, and strode hotly out of the suite. The crowd was chanting her name. Toruk dropped to a knee, bleeding, gasping, dying. He glanced at the touchpad, and felt an uncommon sensation welling up in the tip of his finger.
- Mountain Bird is the literal translation of Toriyama.
- The way Nagamasa describes the tea, it's like he's just swallowed semen.
- Nagamasu is named after Oda Nagamasu, a pupil of Sen no Rikyū. Sen No Rikyū is considered to be the foremost master of the tea ceremony in Japan. He is also the man I partially named Rikyu after.
- Dekiru's name is the Japanese word for "can be". It is a potential form of Suru, the modern verb for "to be". Zamasu's name is a pun on an obsolete verb meaning "to be".
- The Ikigai stories deal with some similar things. Lipanto appears in two stories, and as of the mention of Green Liani in this one, Loru Qir is featured in some way in two Ikigai stories. This was inspired by how I wrote the theme of the Makyan war against the samurai be an underlying plot point in multiple stories in The Heels of the Unknown.
- All of the Kais in the opening scene are modeling their behavior off of how people act during the Japanese tea ceremony. One attribute that is prized in that ceremony is not doing anything in excess, whether it be speech or movement.
- Green Liani is the best tea in Universe 7, so Dekiru had somewhat of an unfair advantage over Zamasu. Surely the tea that Zamasu chose was not on Green Liani's level. That is not the only aspect of this contest, though. He also prepared his tea in an imprecise way.
- In my opinion, Nagamasu did not lose his eye in a tea accident. The cockroach thing seems suspect, as well. I bet he got himself involved in something that he shouldn't have. He doesn't strike me as a particularly powerful member of his species, but in his younger days, he would have doubtlessly had to venture around the universe to find the best tea in Universe 10, so he could have run into some bad dudes during those trips.
- The technique Nagamasu taught Zamasu and Dekiru was Kai Kai. This technique ends up being very useful for Zamasu in the Future Trunks Saga.
- Zamasu asks for permission to leave Universe 10, but Dekiru clearly went to Universe 7 earlier without asking, so there is some fuckery afoot. Perhaps Dekiru didn't care, or didn't think the old man would realize. Or perhaps Zamasu was just being overly polite, which fits his character at this stage of his life. He is almost too cautious in how he interacts with his superiors.
- Zamasu strikes me as someone who is extremely competitive and who thinks highly of himself. When he fails in small things, such as this tea contest, he feels shame. Moreover, I thought he would redouble his efforts to win next time. That is where all the descriptions of the heat and colors come from. He is so focused on finding the best tea flavor in the multiverse that he's sort of daydreaming at the end of the first scene. The colors of the flowers become all that remains in his vision, rather than their more intricate details, because he is hyper-focused on his task.
- The mortals Zamasu sees in the streets of Loru Qir are most certainly Joleans.
- Zamasu was extremely bold to kill those mortals. He only did so because he knew that Gowasu and his other superiors would absolutely not be watching him. Zamasu also lays bare his raw emotions to Dekiru, which is a show of trust (and maybe even intimacy). If Dekiru told Nagamasu what Zamasu had done, Zamasu would be permanently demoted, if not worse. In the first scene, I had him fighting with his emotions. They were starting to bubble over at the end of that scene, but he nevertheless held them in check on the Sacred World of the Kai. He doesn't feel the need to fight so hard to suppress his emotions in a far-off world in another universe, however.
- Although Dekiru knows that Zamasu is wrong to kill mortals, he doesn't seem to particularly care about it. He is more worried about Zamasu getting in trouble than anything else.
- "There is nothing worse than excess and waste, Zamasu." - dealing with the concepts of excess and waste through Dekiru and Zamasu's actions and beliefs is a major theme of this story.
- Almost all of the descriptions of the Universe 3 Sacred World of the Kai in the second scene were based on how that planet looks in Universe 10 during the Future Trunks Saga. Having just watched that saga before writing this story, the aesthetics of that part of DBS were fresh in my mind and were applied here.
- Zamasu could never tell Nagamasu about Dekiru stealing tea from Universe 3 because Dekiru could tell Gowasu about him killing mortals. Neither one of them is virtuous.
- The way I described Zamasu at the end of the second section can be interpretted two ways. Most obviously, he seems to have some lust towards Dekiru. Since Kais can't reproduce, but seem to have a sex drive nonetheless, I decided to add that in, as the impression I got from Zamasu during the Future Trunks Saga was that he was a flaming homosexual. The other way to interpret his emotions at the end of that section is perhaps the more interesting way. Zamasu looks upon the North Kai from Universe 3 and senses purity in him, which sickens him. At the same time, some small part of him realizes that he is a defective Kai (he probably should have been sent to the Demon Realm at birth) and so comparing himself to a fellow North Kai rouses in him great shame, even if he is much stronger, physically, than that guy.
- In the third scene, Gowasu reveals that there had not truly been a contest between Zamasu and Dekiru. Zamasu, being a once-in-a-generation talent, was always going to win. I used this scene to show how Gowasu had some proper instincts, but he does not utilize them to their fullest potential. Yes, Zamasu is the obvious pick because he is more adept than any Kai in recent history. However, that doesn't make him a good person. Potential and talent are not equivalent to intelligence and empathy. Thus, I tried to highlight that Gowasu is, in many ways, incompetent. He is not a good judge of character. He lacks a careful eye. Zamasu eventually destroying the Future Timeline is very much Gowasu's fault, in my opinion. Being in his position, he had to be more careful. He was not. He was lazy and hopeful and not a particularly good leader.
- The tea cup flies off in a gust of wind and shatters against the Kaiju Tree to symbolize how Gowasu made a devastating decision not only for his universe, but for the entire multiverse.
- "The implication might have offended Zamasu had his mind not instead been occupied by the thought that he had never once considered what kind of god he wanted to be, only that he wanted to be a god – not a god, the only god of the universe, of all the universes. He swallowed, calming himself." - this paragraph gets to the core of what Zamasu is going through in this story. He wants to become the next Supreme Kai, but he does not respect that position. He wants power. The restrictions on his abilities, given his species and rank, are not concerns of him. Why should he listen to rules made up by people who are dead? That is not how Zamasu rolls. Still, going after the warrior in the fourth section is reckless even for him. Dekiru does his best to try to get Zamasu to stop, but it's no use. I think Dekiru's attempts are made because he knows that if he doesn't stop Zamasu soon, the other Kai will feel less and less restraint over killing any mortal he comes across. Eventually, he will be caught, and that will be no good.
- The android featured in this story is one of Dr. Kommon's creations. Kommon is a major villain in the Universe 12 arc of Heart of the Dragon. I have written about him a bit in Ka Mua. I believe I had come up with him at this time, for Kommon and Myaku were created around the same time and I know that I had come up with Myaku by this point, for he was set to appear in Across the Universe (his chapter hadn't been posted as of the publishing of Mountain Bird, but I knew he was going to appear in it at that time). So yeah, this is the first hint of Kommon in my universe. He'll have a bigger impact in HOTD. In any case, this is sort of how he acts. He probes and prods and tests out his creations, remaining in the shadows. This android was being tested. His power was probably fairly high, but Zamasu is just on another level. The encounter with Zamasu pushed Kommon to create more powerful beings in the future. He will probably not use any androids in HOTD, but that's not to say he won't create some bio-warriors or something similar.
- "The green-skinned apprentice let out a heavy shuddering exhale. The other acolyte’s body was up against his now, one hand wrapped around his chest as he rested his chin on Zamasu’s shoulder." - I'm fairly certain the two of them were about to do something lewd. However, without sexual organs, it's hard to say what they could've done, realistically, that would have gotten them off.
- I had Dekiru and Zamasu meet with Geene briefly in the fourth scene because Geene will appear in Heart of the Dragon and I needed some practice with his character before getting to that story. I had only been recently introduced to him when I wrote him into this story.
- Geene is right to chastise Zamasu. Zamasu had no right to do what he did. With that said, it's only because he's a Kai. If a random traveler killed someone, Geene would not care. He's offended at the Kai not acting like a Kai, more than anything else, and being unapologetic about it.
- In the fifth scene, Zamasu's analysis of the floating beast was my attempt to show how he has a warped mind as well as bad habits. His entire mode of thinking is in terms of death and destruction.
- To be honest, I don't remember writing the fifth scene. It's a bit too overt, I think. The previous examples were more nuanced and more interesting for me.
- Gowasu's shit about tea being brewed by pure-hearted people tasting better is laughably stupid. It's something you'd expect a cringey 14 year-old to come up with. That's probably why I named this story Mountain Bird, not gonna lie. I am not a fan of Toriyama coming up with that. Who knows though. It could've been some employee at Toei, in which case my ire extends to them.
- At the end of the sixth scene, Zamasu desperately wants to kill Gowasu. He refrains from doing so simply because he is not ready. He has not learned enough to take over the universe yet, nor to enact his zero mortals plan. I injected some of myself into Zamasu with this. I am very impatient, and it can be a struggle oftentimes to refrain from doing something I wish to do, even if it is for the best for me to delay. His emotions in that moment, therefore, were natural for me to write.
- I didn't make it a focal point of the story, but Dekiru took the blame for killing that android because he knew that Zamasu would be made the next Supreme Kai of Universe 10. As a result, he was banished from that universe. That's not to say he doesn't want to go back, but he is no longer allowed back officially.
- Toruk being a Cyren indicates that there are more Cyrens out and about in the universe than just Digranite and Clen. This is the first time that I have confirmed that.
- Morun is named as such because I wanted his guard to call him something that sounds similar to "moron". I am not sure if I also based the name on a fruit.
- Morun's guard is slightly based on The Hound from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- I don't explain how Dekiru got his money, but one can assume that he did something similar to how he got his tea from Universe 3. Even though he's a Kai, Dekiru is not a particularly moral person, so he would not be above stealing money.
- Dekiru did not come for Linessi because I did not want him to overvalue her without seeing her. I wanted him to realize she was the best pick for him after witnessing her fight. With that said, he probably should have taken her, as she's won the Premier League three times in a row. However, all good things do come to an end, so perhaps he thought that there was no way she could win it four times in a row.
- Morun smoking nil is quite ridiculous. He could probably only get away with that because of how rich he is. It's not common to see young people smoke that stuff.
- The guard should have been executed for his treachery. The boy ordered him to do something and he refused. He thought he knew better than the little moron, but as it turned out, he did not. That hurt his pride and is the main reason why he quit at the end of the final section. He was too ashamed to remain in the boy's employ.
- When I wrote this story, I had a vague inclination of what Dekiru would use Linessi for (helping him get back to Universe 10 - he can't use Kai Kai anymore, as he has been demoted, and if he does use that technique, the God of Destruction in whichever universe he goes to is supposed to erase him), but I wasn't fully sure. It's actually surprising to me how soon after this story I wrote the sequel. To Kill a God-Emperor was written about five months later, in my next one-shot collection, Starchasers: Origins. Everything I began in this story was tied up neatly in TKAGE. Anyways, we'll get to that commentary soon enough and I'll talk more about Dekiru's motivations and character arc in that anthology.
Decent story, in my opinion. The prose is below average, probably the worst in Ikigai, but I think some of the thematic content and dialogue was handled with care. I attempted a lighter, more minimalistic style in this story than in previous Ikigai tales, and I think for the most part it worked out, which caused it to influence my later writings. Overall, this was a nice story to dip my toes into the Dragon Ball: Super era with and was influential for Vöntun. This is not my best work, and probably not one I'll re-read often, for it reminds me too much of TUN.
Additionally, as this is the last Ikigai story, I will now rank the six stories in order from best to worst in my opinion:
- The Monster and the Maiden
- A Space Christmas Story
- One Chop Man
- Mountain Bird
- Twelve Majestic Lies
<---- Part 95
Part 97 ---->