A Short-Lived Dream was a one-shot collection I had decided to create even before The Heels of the Unknown was completed. In the weeks and months after finishing THOTU, I began working on ideas for a new one-shot collection. For a while, I had a few ideas floating around in my head and no real plan for how many stories, which themes, or what kind of tone I was going for. Below, I will show some bullet points for information that I kept while coming up with this one-shot collection. This information covers roughly a one month period:
8/22/2016: came up with idea for a ginyu/alien story, and named it 9/4/2016: came up with idea for successor to dabura story and another story about korin 9/16/2016: came up with first list of six stories, decided to make a story in the spirit of every one-shot collection I was involved in except dragon ball what if...; none of the stories except captain ginyu one had names at this point; narrowed broly songs down to either paperface or lullabye for wayne 9/20/2016: came up with idea to have multiple stories in each category, depending on how many ideas I came up with 9/21/2016: a lot of stories were thought up and categorized into the various collections, with most of them being created on this day.
At first, I was going to produce 1 story apiece as DLC for each of my previous one-shot collections, including Dragon Ball: Legacies, but not including the non-canon Dragon Ball What If.... From late August through September 2016, I slowly came up with several story ideas and eventually decided that I needed to produce more than one story for some of the collections, with my DLC for THOTU and The Black and White Collection clearly needing multiple stories to work.
Astute readers will also notice that there are some ideas mentioned above that I never actually used. One of my earliest ones was about kid Ginyu and him discovering his body switching powers. This one-shot was never written, but at least in the early days, it was the one-shot I most associated with this collection. I may or may not write that one-shot later in the future.
This collection served as a repository for many old ideas I had. Ice Age Coming for example was an idea I almost used in THOTU. This collection is also likely the last one that I will have so many of my old style of one-shots in it, like Superior, Small, and Untouchable. Focusing on the backstories or showing cool little side stories for my fanon characters has become more of a priority of mine since writing this story. That was somewhat apparent in THOTU, with four of those stories being about fanon characters (and the final three stories in that collection were all about fanon characters, setting a specific tone moving onto this collection). This idea became more widespread in ASLD, though I certainly wrote a lot of stories simply about canon characters. 5 out of the 11 canon stories are about canon characters primarily, so this shift in character focus did happen in ASLD, but not fully. In my next one-shot collection after ASLD, Ikigai, there will be a much larger focus on fanon characters. My style of one-shots for The Brady Patrick Collection, for instance, will probably not be returned to soon. Really short emotional one-shots about canon characters is something I've been known for, but I am now moving away from that style of writing for the most part.
So now onto this story. Not So Far is a lovely, interesting way to start off A Short-Lived Dream, in my opinion, because it wasn't planned to be in the collection at all. Originally, I was going to do two THOTU-era stories. I had many candidates for the THOTU DLC, including a story about Sertung meeting Vados and Champa and giving them Verlate's mind prison, a story about Rikyu's father, a story about Roshi and Oolong that was cut from THOTU, a story about an original Majin that was also cut from THOTU, and a story about Audacci's origins. Eventually, I decided to bump the THOTU DLC to 4 stories (two additional spring and autumn sections to mimic the famous Japanese poetry collections of the Kokinshu and Shin Kokinshu having twice as many books of poetry about spring and autumn as they did about summer and winter). So I did the same thing with THOTU. Even so, it surprises me now that I picked Not So Far from the story options I had. I actually didn't use too many of my leftover ideas for the THOTU DLC. I didn't write about Sertung or the true Majin or Rikyu's father. Audacci's backstory (in a way) was written, though, and Roshi's story was kept. The autumn stories were both new creations.
Not So Far comes almost exclusively from a class I was taking in the Fall 2016 semester on Japanese literature. This story was influenced by The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. In that collection of stories and accounts, there was one tale about a female cat promoted to the fifth rank of the court whom the emperor loved dearly. The cat gets into an altercation with a dog that is really sad. I made reference to this story signficantly in the story that Korin tells to Yajirobe and Ledas. Overall, the story impacted me greatly, and I'm not sure why exactly. On the very day that I heard this story - October 5, 2016 - I wrote the first words of Not So Far on a google document - the endoplasmic reticulum joke that Ledas makes. This was spur-of-the-moment writing, and I wasn't concerned about themes or writing style or any of that jive as I wrote this story. It was an idea that came out of nowhere and one I felt I had to write.
In terms of what I planned for this story, there wasn't much. I wrote about poker and Ledas hanging out with Korin and Yajirobe because I wanted to. I just wanted to show what Ledas was doing after TF, but in a way that was far less consequential than The Great Sushi-Eating Contest. I assumed when I wrote this story that it would take place after The Great Sushi-Eating Contest, but that didn't turn out to be the case. This was a story very much about character interactions and seeing how Ledas is like around his friends. I got the idea for Nir's name origin around this time as well. So there's a lot of little stuff in this story. There's not really any profound truth or plot point that will come up later - the Nir name origin reveal is about the most plot-consequential thing to come out of this story. But it was fun to layer in the character development of the three characters, especially telling this from Yajiroe's perspective. I chose not to tell it from Ledas' perspective because I wanted to have 2 fanon and 2 canon perspectives to keep the balance of THOTU. It works better not having Ledas be the protagonist here. He's just another character, like how Piccolo might appear in a story about Gohan or something like that. It was a cool thing to try since Ledas is usually the protagonist when he appears. I wrote about him similarly to how I wrote about him in Dragon Ball Z: In Requiem, but with more nuance this time, I hope.
So in terms of the actual writing, aside from the one scene I already mentioned, I began writing on October 6, 2016, and I wrote from 6:58 pm to 2:28 am on October 7th. I wrote off and on that night, getting up to the point where Korin introduces the Nir cat in that time. I was drunk the entire time while writing this story, I think. In the very early hours of October 8th, I continued writing, getting up to "“Y-yeah… I guess…” Ledas scratched the back of his head." by the end of that night. I continued writing again later that day from 12:34 pm to 3:47 pm, and then later from 11:26 pm to 5:56 am on October 9th. Obviously, I didn't edit continuously for those time periods, especially since I was drunk, but by 5:56 am on October 9th, I had completed this story and edited about half of the first section. From 3:06 pm to 5:54 pm, I finished editing the story, and I posted it not long after on the wiki.
Not So Far, much like the other opening stories produced for a story collection (Sixth, Bluestreaker, and Glory come to mind), has a slightly different feel to it than the rest of the stories in this one-shot collection. This is mainly because I didn't know what kind of writing style or thematic stuff I was going to do for all of the stories - that would just happen naturally. As it turned out, with ASLD, I wrote in a fragmentory, minimalistic style that is not reflected too much in this story. Not So Far's prose is the least like any other ASLD one-shot's prose.
It was particular fun for me to have three stories within a story here. It was complicated to work out, but quite fun to come up with. Having each story be of varying complexity and length is related to the characterizations of each character as well. Notice how Korin has the longest story, while Yajirobe has the shortest one. Korin's mythological storytelling is contrasted heavily with Yajirobe's trite little tale about catching a boar to eat. I'll get more into this stuff in the endnotes.
I think in general, this story is optimistic. It is unlike many other ASLD stories because of that. A lot of the other stories in this collection aren't really happy. Even though this one has some subtle allusions to the self-destructive tendencies of Ledas, I still think this is a tale of hope. The song I chose for this story, which is also Yajirobe's theme song, evokes this hopeful, energetic tone well. It is interesting to me to see this in ASLD, because I think a lot of the stories are about the suppresion of emotion and energy and movement (though obviously not all of them are).
In a way, Not So Far is an outlier. I suppose that's alright, though. Being entirely honest, I love this story. I think it's one of the best one-shots I've ever written, and it's exactly the kind of story I want to read. This is one of my stories that I come back to most often to re-read. I enjoy reveling in the energy and wit of the prose. So I'm quite familiar with this story, and I think that it's likely that this'll end up as one of my top-ranked ASLD stories. I would certainly be surprised if it doesn't.
|Not So Far|
High above the clouds, where the wind blows, they made their game. Yajirobe was a fine man in his own estimation. He quite liked himself, although such emotion was quite exhausting in his opinion. Across the table sat the old master – Korin, the Wondercat. Korin was the bane of Yajirobe’s existence. The samurai wanted to live a life of ecstasy and laziness, but the old kitty was always on him like a fox on a green-furred toy wiener dog. He was constantly nagging Yajirobe, as if he were the man’s mother. It made Yajirobe mad – mad as a kitty without a slice of ham to warm his belly.
He was as quick-witted as anyone who ever lived. Yajirobe was great. He was the best samurai in the world (he was the only samurai in the world); he was a beautiful man with great potential and a charming personality specifically tailored for the girls. Yajirobe shivered. The autumn wind was caressing the nape of his neck. Looking down, he found his cards: the queen of diamonds and the seven of spades. Pure trash (or, as Vegeta would say, “space trash!”). He threw the noble lady and her lackluster consort into the muck in disgust.
“Nice fold, big guy,” Korin said wisely, looking over Yajirobe with that usual judgmental gaze of his. “You would’ve lost a lotta chips with those ones.”
“Yeah right,” Yajirobe grunted. “If I wanted to, I could’ve busted you. But I chose not to out of the kindness of my heart.”
That made Ledas giggle. The boy sat between the samurai and the senbyo. He had folded as well. Yajirobe didn’t like that; he wanted Korin to pay for his arrogance severely. He wanted to paint that cat’s fur blue for all he’d done to poor, decent Yajirobe.
The cards were dealt again. Korin poured them all another round – chilled saké for Yajirobe and himself, and a fresh cup of tap water for the grey-eyed Saiyan boy with a monkey’s tail to boot (an outrageous appendage in Yajirobe’s good opinion).
“It’s the best tap water this side of Yunzabit Heights!” Korin boasted, but Yajirobe knew better. Still, he said not a word.
The samurai threw ten thousand chips into the pot, causing Korin to fold; but the Saiyan boy was not convinced. He called. That incensed Yajirobe. He had the three of diamonds and the jack of hearts. He had a terrible hand. The flop came: the four of spades, the queen of diamonds, and the nine of spades. It was, as must be noted, a ruinous flop for the proud samurai. He nearly upended the table right then and there. He had a weak hand, an absolutely worthless hand, yet he threw fifty thousand additional chips into the pot in a desperate bluff. Ledas called him. A ten of hearts came on the turn.
A bluejay landed on the railing of Korin Tower and cried out passionately. The Saiyan boy tried to answer it in song, but his voice wasn’t like a bluejay’s at all. The bird cocked its head and screeched obnoxiously; Ledas sang back at it at the top of his lungs; Yajirobe nearly exploded with impatience.
“Come on, do something already!” he roared.
“Alright,” Ledas shrugged. “All in.”
Those were the two worst words Yajirobe had ever heard, bless his soul. He lived a simple life and rarely had to deal with extreme situations such as this. It was too much for him. He was used to just giving Goku or the others a handful of senzu beans and going on with his day. But this level of pressure… he hadn’t experienced this much anxiety since that blind lizard alien had tried to kill him.
“Fine, be that way.” He folded, crossing his arms in contempt. “That was ridiculous.”
Ledas laughed. “I had a great hand.”
“Sure you did.”
“Looks like you’re the new short stack, champ,” Korin said coolly, eyeing Yajirobe’s chips. “Heh, I’m not surprised.”
“Whatever, man. I’m gonna win this thing.”
“Sure ya are.” Korin’s voice was as sweet as sugar. He was an elegant cat, a proper courtly jester. He was so fancy, Yajirobe wanted to vomit. “How about this: if you win, I’ll give you a senzu bean. How’s that sound, eh? That’ll be a special treat for you, Yajirobe!”
The man barely deigned to reply with a snort. Korin raised four times the big blind. Ledas folded; Yajirobe decided to call. He had pocket sevens. He was a legend. The wind blew with icy fervency upon his cheeks. The bluejay had left the rail.
“Y’know, when I was younger… oh, maybe four or five hundred years ago… I lived in Emperor Chaoko's court.”
Yajirobe knew well this strategy by the master Korin. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. You were a big shot a long time ago. Nobody cares any more.”
Unperturbed, the legendary white-furred cat continued, “While I was staying there, I met a beautiful girl named Lady Myobu. She was His Majesty’s prized pet cat, and he appointed her to fifth rank in the entire kingdom.”
Yajirobe, having heard this fable before, was rather annoyed. “Can you just bet or fold already? I don’t have all day!”
Korin gave a wry smile. “Lady Myobu was the most beautiful girl I ever met.”
“Did you date her?” the Saiyan asked curiously.
“No way!” Korin shook his head. “She was too good for me! His Majesty, the emperor, adored her. He spoiled her rotten, made her think that she was somethin’ special.”
“Yeah, yeah, come on, move,” Yajirobe said impatiently. “Do something.”
Korin eyed Yajirobe intently as he spilled some chips into the pot, like some nice fava beans on parade. “I tried to court her,” he lamented. “But she was fifth rank in the entire kingdom. The emperor loved Lady Myobu very much. I thought, maybe, if I could make her my girlfriend… maybe I could become someone.”
“Drugs are bad,” Ledas noted. “And don’t forget that being bad is wrong!” He slammed his cup down upon the table enthusiastically, shattering it. The glass fragments that shot forth mostly found their way into Korin’s fur, though a few shards got in Yajirobe’s hair, and he cursed that grey-eyed boy plentifully for his reprehensible nature. Ledas merely cooed like a pigeon in response.
The turn came. The board read: the four of clubs, the ace of spades, the two of clubs, the five of clubs. All was looking good for Yajirobe. He bet an exorbitant amount, causing Korin to rub his tummy and moan in wonder upon witnessing the samurai’s gambit. This was wholly unexpected, and Yajirobe was happy to see that he had flummoxed Korin. Nevertheless, after spending approximately twelve seconds in the tank, the wonder-kitty called him, and they were off to the river.
“One day I tried to introduce myself to her. I was so nervous. I spent hours getting ready. I took a bath, got my fur cleaned and all shiny, bought myself an expensive purple collar, and even trimmed my claws! I walked up to her slowly, my tail in the air, trying to be as non-threatening as possible, and all the while, she’s sitting there on a pillow staring at me with those wide green eyes of hers. I was shaking, I tell ya! And then when I tried to greet her, Lady Myobu screamed. Apparently, she had been napping up there on the windowsill. How was I supposed to know? They told me afterwards that she sleeps with her eyes open. That’s weird, right?” Ledas nodded energetically and swung his feet back and forth. “The emperor had me banished to Dog Island, even though I’m a cat! It was the worst moment of my life! But what could I do, eh?”
“That was extremely ridiculous, and that emperor should be ashamed of himself,” Ledas agreed.
It was the king of hearts. There were two overcards to his pocket sevens, but Yajirobe didn’t care. The air was wailing; his stomach was grumbling. This was just a stupid game after all. “All in.”
Korin eyed the man suspiciously. “Anyways, later I heard she got with this tomcat. He was promoted to eighth rank after they got engaged. I’ve heard the party they threw afterwards was unlike anything else ever seen in the kingdom.”
Ledas frowned. “How did the emperor know the kitties wanted to get married?”
Yajirobe grunted and wondered if it was time to feast. Clearly not, he knew. He couldn’t feast for at least three hundred more words. That was the price he had to pay for playing this hand so wonderfully.
“He had a feeling. It was strange, I’d say. The emperor was an eccentric man. It’s no surprise that his kingdom collapsed under his rule. Making Lady Myobu fifth rank of the entire kingdom… even as beautiful as she was… that was a bad move. She was ranked above everyone, aside from the emperor, his wife, and their two kids. It’s absurd.” The kitty folded his hand and drummed his fingers on the white-cloth-covered table. “Anyone know the name of Myobu’s paramour?”
“Endoplasmic reticulum?” Ledas asked, poking his head up.
“Endoplastic what now?” Yajirobe was confused.
The boy shrugged. “I dunno, it’s just something people say.”
“Nope,” Korin said, eyeing Ledas with a piercing gaze. The wind gusted through the boy’s hair. “He wasn’t handsome; he wasn’t charming; he wasn’t very smart. Heck, I shoulda been her husband! Sheesh! Come on, what’s a guy to do?!”
“Alright, alright, just deal the cards, man,” Yajirobe said quickly. “I’m starvin’ over here!”
Korin ignored him. “But anyways… his name was Nir.”
“Nir, huh? Wow, that’s a really cool name,” Ledas whispered.
“He was a tabby. His parents were street urchins, and so was he. I don’t know what she saw in him…” Korin shook his head as he peeked at his cards. “Alright, I’m all in.”
Yajirobe scowled a mean scowl. “Come on man.”
“You gotta beat the best to be the best,” the white-furred beast replied. “Do something, Yajirobe.”
The grumpy samurai folded, though he hadn’t wanted to. Korin cackled and dealt another hand. He had half a mind to whip out his katana and cut that arrogant kitty’s favorite cat tower in half, but he restrained himself. It wasn’t yet time. His hand was eight-deuce, so he discarded it easily.
“Mr. Korin sir, don’t you have anything else to say?”
“Eh?” The cat was looking over his cards.
“About the Nir kitty.”
“Ah, that’s right!” Korin cleared his throat. “So she fell for him. He knew how to sing outside her door in the moonlight.” Korin looked sickened as he threw his cards into the muck, following a bold re-raise by Ledas. That almost made Yajirobe happy. A flock of wild geese flew by the tower, honking abrasively. He grit his teeth and shouted some pretty mean things at them, but they just kept on shrieking and screeching and ignoring poor Yajirobe. Farther off in the sky, orange-bellied robins glided and swarmed like swirling leaves. “The emperor prepared an extravagant wedding. He spared no expense,” said the senbyo who decided to throw a blind bet into the pot before he even looked at his cards. That morally outraged Yajirobe. He thought back to a boy he’d once known and wondered how Korin had managed to mimic him so. “So I made it the worst wedding ever.”
Yajirobe scowled. He’d heard this story a thousand times. It was like eating senzu beans – the feeling was always the same. He bet seven times the big blind, which caused an immediate fold by Ledas. Korin stared him down.
“So that’s how it is, eh?”
“I’m not telling you anything, man.” Yajirobe stuck his lip up like a proper fancy boy.
“I blew up the cake,” Korin muttered.
The Saiyan burst out laughing. “You did… what?!”
“You heard me.” Korin’s eyes never left Yajirobe’s. He called the samurai’s raise. Yajirobe felt a keen, cold sweat descend down his spine as he tried to think up his next move. He had a king, and he had a seven – decent cards, but not great. Korin could have anything. “When the emperor presented Lady Myobu to Nir, I detonated the cake with some firecrackers I stole from a mutt on Dog Island. It splattered all over that mongrel’s orange fur, and he ran out of there screaming like a pussy.”
“So you got back with her?” the boy asked, as naïve as a spring morning.
“No,” Korin shook his head sadly. “Nir was disgraced. I made sure of that. He fled the capital. He never saw Myobu again. But it didn’t matter. When I was preparing to make my grand entrance, the emperor wheeled out another cat – a black-and-white fatty who looked like he’d been stuck on a roof all his life. His name was Ishmael. The marriage ceremony happened so fast, I had no chance to stop it. It was over before it began.”
The flop came: the ace of diamonds, the two of diamonds, and the queen of diamonds. Yajirobe peeked at his cards to see if he held a diamond, but he didn’t. That was typical luck, he knew. If the old cat’s luck were half as bad as his, the game would already be over. When Korin raised him all in, Yajirobe had no choice but to immediately fold.
They were quiet as Korin collected his next pot. Yajirobe ground his teeth. His stomach growled, and he shivered. “Raise!” shouted Ledas obnoxiously. He was a clueless boy; he’d be the first one to bust out, surely. Yajirobe had seen young flames burn out before, though remembering those old memories did him no good, he knew.
“Your turn, kid,” Korin snapped, calling Ledas’ ridiculous aggro-play.
“Huh?!” Ledas was wide-eyed as a caught fox, red-furred and all.
“Tell us a story, or you’ll have to cook us dinner!”
“No way!” The boy was aghast. His girlish gasp made even Yajirobe look away, it was so embarrassing.
“I’m not kidding, champ.”
The boy was simmering in the tank like Phil Laak after an all-in by Antonio Esfandiari. That was a horribly obscure reference, and Yajirobe felt ashamed of himself for making it. He wanted to slit his own throat. Life is meaningless and full of pain, so they say.
If Yajirobe cared about anyone, he was hiding it well, even from himself. He didn’t care about this game. He was numb to everything; nothing meant anything to him, except food. He was a simple man with simple tastes, unlike the Saiyan boy. Smoked wild boar was so much better than these inedible chips stacked in front of him like a mini metropolis.
“It’s storytime, kid… Don’t be shy!” Korin was goading him, like a dirt farmer dangling a carrot in front of a mule. “How about you tell us about a girl you like?”
“No…” Ledas blushed. “Th-there’s nothing going on like that!”
When Yajirobe thought, he thought of salted pork. He thought of fat, short men wading through chest-high water, salivating over what he salivated over. Salted pork was the gift of the gods. When Yajirobe had been five years old, his mother had given him three strips of bacon for his birthday. He’d never had a better birthday since.
“R-really, I-I don’t–”
“Don’t lie to me, Ledas. I know with a face like yours, you gotta be gettin’ some action!” the kitty purred. “Come on, spill the beans!”
His face was scarlet – the color of Makare’s crumpled body in the light of the burning mountain. Yajirobe hadn’t thought of that man in years. Why was his mind turning towards the past now? He couldn’t say. He wanted some wild boar.
Ledas’ uninterrupted sigh broke Yajirobe out of his wandering thoughts. Korin sat tall and loose, fingering several chips and eyeing both of them with high indifference. “Fine… I’ve got a story for you guys.”
Ledas went all in. Korin folded faster than Yajirobe could process what had happened. The samurai played it up, as if he had a decision to make (with his three of hearts and nine of clubs), but in the end, he threw his cards away too. Gotta save face, yo. Yajirobe was a magnificent hambone; he was a wonderful guy; he’d beaten the last great samurai lord to ever walk the Earth in single combat. But no one knew that, not even Korin. The wind was on his cheeks again, and he felt his eyes watering. The weakness annoyed Yajirobe. He wasn’t sad. This wasn’t him. Why was his body reacting against his will?!
“One of my first memories was my dad taking me to a zoo in the royal city. Y’know, back on Planet Vegeta.”
Yajirobe tried to raise his next hand – the five of diamonds and the ace of hearts – but Korin re-raised him so severely, the samurai had to pretend he had a decision to make for more than three minutes before throwing his cards away. He saved face, but not many of his chips. He was going broke faster than a wildebeest who’d just won the lottery.
“I remember we went to see a Sanu – they’re a kind of big, furry predator, sorta like a saber-tooth cat from this planet, okay?”
Korin nodded and folded to Ledas’ next raise. Yajirobe simmered with rage. Why couldn’t the stupid cat do that when he had a hand?
“Anyways, I was like three years old, I think… maybe four. I could’ve just turned four. I don’t remember.”
Korin’s mouth contorted into a knowing grin. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Y-yeah… I guess…” Ledas scratched the back of his head. “Anyways, my dad took me and this girl there together… Chiha-something, I think… Uh… Dang, I don’t remember her name!”
“Sly dog,” Korin noted.
Looking up and narrowing his large eyes, Ledas spoke, “It was a playdate, or something.”
“Or something,” Korin agreed.
“Get on with it,” Yajirobe grumbled. “I don’t have all day, man.”
Korin dealt the cards again. “When we got there, the trainer was feeding the Sanu some meat on a stick, and I guess it got really excited, or maybe it was just super hungry, because it snapped at him and ripped off his arm. There was blood everywhere! And he screamed like a little girl!”
Ledas sounded cheerful when he said that. Yajirobe shook his head. Saiyans were weird. The way that boy’s grey eyes lit up when he went on about the gruesome details… Yajirobe didn’t understand it. It was as if Ledas were an alien or something.
“Must’ve been a new trainer,” Korin said calmly, raising pre-flop and taking the pot. “Otherwise, he should have known what he was getting himself into. So what happened with that Chiharu girl?” the rotund kitty asked. “Did you end up marrying her, kid?”
“Nope. I never saw her again. I’m sure she was killed when Frieza destroyed my homeworld.”
“That was a terrible story,” Yajirobe grunted. His mind was full of explosions, of flashing silver, of a blond-haired, green-eyed boy who’d once been as young as this boy sitting to his left. “Whatever, I’m all in.”
He threw all of his chips to the middle of the table, spilling them forward with ejaculatory spirit. Ledas called him. Korin folded after thinking it over for a few moments. “Alright, champ. Tell us your story, in case you bust out here.”
Yajirobe scowled. “Just deal the cards, man. I’m hungry. Let’s get this over with.”
“No way, I wanna hear Yajirobe’s tale!” Ledas shrieked. “Make it a good one! I want it to be as long as my daddy’s beard!”
He had half a mind to grant them that request. As everyone knew, Yajirobe had quite a story to his name, and he could pontificate for hours upon days upon weeks upon seconds about his glorious past. He vaguely recalled once running about on a spindle, whatever the hell that meant, but he had not the heart to tell them about those times. Not even the meager wonderkitty knew much about Yajirobe’s early life, and he meant to keep it that way.
He scrunched up his face like a pufferfish after taking three shots of morphine. Sighing long and hard as a young girl in Mr. Coddington’s biology class, Yajirobe began: “Alright, so a long time ago, I was out huntin’ this wild boar, and…”
“How long’re we talking?” the boy asked eagerly.
“After I left the samurai school…”
“Whoa… what’s that?”
“The Iboinoshishi Samurai School,” spoke the mythical kitty of so fine a strain. “The best… and last samurai school in the world. Yajirobe here was among the last people to graduate before it closed up.”
“Oh nice. Great job, Yajirobe!”
“As I was saying,” the poor samurai growled (he was not like a bitch in heat at all), “I was hunting a boar. It was a big one. He had long tusks and a nasty temper.”
“So what did you do?” That was the boy speaking again.
“I cut off his head.”
“Show your cards,” Korin said, causing Yajirobe to bristle with anger. How dare he rebuke the poor samurai so! “You’re all in.”
“Whatever.” He threw the cards towards the pot, revealing a queen of diamonds and a ten of diamonds.
Ledas revealed a pair of cowboys – the king of spades and the king of diamonds. It was the worst thing Yajirobe had ever seen in his life. The geese were far-off now, pale dots against the sinking sun. Yajirobe could not appreciate their beauty any more.
“Deal, you old cat,” Yajirobe grumbled.
“Not until you continue your story,” said wise Korin, blessed be his fur.
“That was the whole story!”
“No it wasn’t.”
Yajirobe scowled. “Fine. I cut off his head and roasted him over the fire. There? You happy?”
“Really, that’s it? That’s what you’re going with?”
Yajirobe crossed his arms. “Whatever, man. I just want to eat.”
The flop came: the three of clubs, the ace of diamonds, and the seven of diamonds. It was not as bad of a flop as he had expected. Heat rose in his chest, though Yajirobe knew not to get too excited. He’d seen too much of this kind of thing before – too much potential go to waste in the most heartbreaking ways. Again, he saw those green eyes in the dark, tearful and wide, and he bit his lip to forget. Tasting blood, the samurai leaned back in his chair awkwardly.
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Ledas said carelessly. “You have a chance, Yajirobe!”
“Why did you take that wild boar?” Korin asked him.
“Because I was hungry.”
“Hey?! What’s that supposed to mean?”
Korin smiled sarcastically and dealt a queen of hearts on the turn. It was do or die now. Yajirobe had a few outs – any diamond in the deck, either of the two remaining queens, or one of the three remaining tens – but he was drawing thin. He guessed he had about a 29.55% chance to win. That was okay by his tubby standards. He’d faced worse odds before… and the last time he’d been in such a predicament, he’d slain the greatest samurai in the world in single combat.
“You’re a magnificent storyteller,” the cool cat remarked. “The very best.”
“Yeah man, I know.”
The Saiyan boy’s eyes narrowed again. “So… that’s it? That’s the whole story?”
“Yep.” Yajirobe looked away. His stomach was rumbling. He was ready for some wild boar.
The river dealt a two of clubs, and Yajirobe stood. He felt nothing. He watched the boy raking in the chips for but a moment, and then marched off towards the kitchen, intent on making dinner himself. That was one thing he was good at, at least.
Tired orange light was flickering across his youthful face. Migrating birds chased drifting clouds. A cold wind was rising.
“You’re still here, kid?” Yajirobe called to Ledas.
“Huh?” Ledas had been leaning against the railing of Korin Tower, his hands in the pockets of his red hoodie. He glanced up at the samurai before looking away. “Oh, sorry, I’ll get going…”
“Do what you want, dude. I don’t care if you stay. There’s more boar if you’re still hungry. I know you Saiyans have big appetites.”
“Yeah, thanks Yajirobe, but I’m not hungry.”
He sidled over to the boy whose tail was perked up like a frisky kitty’s. “Is this about a girl? I bet that’s why you don’t wanna leave.”
Ledas’ face flushed as he chuckled. “No, not a girl.”
The boy sighed as the wind picked up, fluttering like a cosmic breath through their hair. “Trust me, it wouldn’t interest you.”
Yajirobe was an impressive individual. He didn’t let that Saiyan kid see him shiver. He had already sliced Ledas’ tail off anyways, back when the kid had been a fearsome giant ape running through the forest. He’d done the same thing to Vegeta once, and he’d have done it to Goku too had he ever seen Goku transform. Yajirobe reckoned he was something of a Saiyan whisperer (or maybe just a Great Ape whisperer), whatever that meant. People gave themselves stupid, made-up titles all the time, so why couldn’t he?
“Hey Yajirobe, wanna blow this joint? Why don’t you come with me to this new club Ryori found? It’s called ‘The Guac’. I’ve heard it’s really awesome, but I haven’t been there yet.”
“Whoa…” Yajirobe’s voice went low. “Aren’t you a little young to be going to a place like that? Don’t they serve alcohol and stuff?”
Ledas sighed again, blowing warmth in between his palms. “I like this planet, but I don’t care about the rules. I’m not a human. I’ll do whatever I want. So whaddya say?”
“Eh, I’m good with stayin’ here. I’d rather party by myself, anyways. All those other people are just annoying.” He thought of his youth, of loud music and dark rooms and people stepping on his toes, breathing down his neck, and feeling more alone than he’d ever felt before. “You shouldn’t go there, man. It’s not safe for a kid like you. Just go home and play video games, or stay here, or somethin’…”
The boy smiled sadly. “If you wanna be a party animal, Mr. Yajirobe, you gotta learn to live in the jungle.” He took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to the big guy. “Thanks again for cooking dinner. It was delicious. I’ll see you later.”
With that, the monkey boy with the messy black hair kicked off into the air and flew towards the setting sun, like those geese fleeing the cold.
Yajirobe unfolded the paper. On it, in the scrawl of an epileptic toddler, was written a haiku:
Dedicated to Yajirobe, my good friend
the fading sun and
smoked meat clinging to the air
a night spent with friends
He wasn’t one for poetry, especially not this lovey-dovey, sentimental crap. Yajirobe crumpled up the piece of paper and pocketed it. Walking back to the kitchen, he found Korin on the counter, a slice of smoked wild boar in his mouth.
“Tsst… tsst!” Yajirobe spat. “Hey, off the counter! Yo, bad kitty!” He grabbed a broom and chased the mythical senbyo out of the room. “Bad kitty!” the samurai bellowed again as he waved the broom back and forth, missing every time. Korin was much quicker than him. It had always been so.
Grumbling to himself, the man returned to the table, where he found a puddle of dark juice on a white plate – the last remains of the wild boar he had spent two hours cooking. He shouted, he cursed, he bit his lip and sighed and waved his arms like a balloon man. But none of that made his favorite delicacy magically reappear on the plate. So sitting – pouting – he reached over and grabbed a stalk of broccoli and dipped it in the pork puddle. Looking over the miserable vegetable, he thought it looked a lot like Ledas’ hair.
He took one bite and frowned. It was repulsive – a veritable, vile weed. Spitting it out all over the table, Yajirobe stood up and returned to the windy railing. The clouds had turned a deep golden orange, with borders of indigo and navy blue. There was maybe thirty minutes of light left.
Yajirobe recalled what Ledas had said to him, and thought back to his days in the Iboinoshishi Samurai School. He’d almost been someone. But they had all died, even the boy whom Ledas reminded him so much of…
Drawing his katana, which glimmered like melted silver in his hand, Yajirobe raised the golden hilt to peer closely at the base of the blade. Scrawled in faint, flowery text, was the name ‘Brian’. He exhaled powerfully and lowered the katana. He still remembered that look in his master’s eyes when it had been him, not Brian, who had returned from their final test.
Pulling a capsule out of his pocket, Yajirobe threw it, revealing an azure hovercar. There was enough daylight left, he knew, as he climbed into the driver’s seat, his sword still in hand.
This would be like hunting boar – better, even.
- I don't remember when or where I came up with the name for this story. While I like its ambiguity, I think the title can only refer to Yajirobe.
- "Yajirobe was a fine man in his own estimation. He quite liked himself, although such emotion was quite exhausting in his opinion." - this little section is an adequate indicator of the prose style I went for in this story. I'd call it something like mixing wit and nihilism, carelessness and emptiness, but I don't know if that is entirely accurate.
- "It made Yajirobe mad – mad as a kitty without a slice of ham to warm his belly." - when I wrote this line I had no come up with the boar dinner/hunting stuff that comes up later. Rather, those plot points came out of this bit of improvisational prose.
- "He was the best samurai in the world (he was the only samurai in the world)" - I like the playfulness here. While there is a certain autumn weariness in the prose, I think that the playfulness of the prose greatly aids the themes of this story. The lightness, airiness, and general inconsequentiality of much of the prose was purposefully-done. This was not meant to be a story that shows the most epic moment in the history of the universe. I wanted to characterize Yajirobe, Korin and Ledas, all of whom I very much adore, in an everyday setting akin to The Pillow Book, which inspired much of this story. It's not easy to do that, I think. It was a challenge to make this story coherent with it not having much of a plot.
- I am quite serious about poker and I follow and play it significantly. I made up all of the hands used in this story, and all the information related to the game is accurate, I think. With that said, the poker stuff is complicated. I could have made it slightly easier to understand but I chose not to. If you know how the game of Texas No Limit Hold 'Em works, great. If you don't, go learn or don't read this story (or you can read it and not understand like anything that's going on - that's perfectly reasonable as well).
- "He wanted to paint that cat’s fur blue for all he’d done to poor, decent Yajirobe." - in my universe, Korin is white-furred. This is one of the few things I take from the anime instead of the manga. Korin with blue fur is just wrong, and I think even Toriyama's realized that in recent years.
- "Korin poured them all another round – chilled saké for Yajirobe and himself, and a fresh cup of tap water for the grey-eyed Saiyan boy with a monkey’s tail to boot (an outrageous appendage in Yajirobe’s good opinion)." - the chilled sake is, I think, not based on the actual customs of Heian Era Japanese court literati, but I could be mistaken. I don't actually remember what I took that from. The tap water, for clever observers, is one of the better jokes of this story, I think, as that was just what Korin's Sacred Water actually is. That Ledas is casually drinking the Sacred Water like this implies a breakdown of traditions, order, and seriousness. Also, Ledas drinking alcohol comes up later and his willingness to get drunk is part of his characterization in this story. That he doesn't insist on having sake too, but is okay with being treated like a kid by Korin, is also interesting to me and I think shows a very significant aspect of his character. Also, it was fun to take digs at Yajirobe's arrogance (such as when he refers to his opinion of Ledas' tail as a "good opinion).
- I was careful not to make it known exactly how many chips each person has, only giving vague or quick overviews of how well each is playing. This isn't supposed to be a serious game (although at various points, the competitiveness of the characters can be seen), so I wasn't too concerned with keeping the audience aware of just how well everyone is doing. That is not to say that I don't know. I kept a running record of how they did throughout the game that is consistent. I didn't save that record, alas.
- "The samurai threw ten thousand chips into the pot, causing Korin to fold; but the Saiyan boy was not convinced." - this hand, with the three of diamonds and jack of hearts, is a bluff. I suppose Yajirobe is a bit on tilt here and he wants to just win some chips, no matter how bad his hand is. Sometimes bluffing works, and it almost did here. I was careful to not make it obvious if any of the players are good or just lucky or just playing randomly. I will say that I think Korin is at least decent at the game.
- Yajirobe's bluff hand against Ledas was conceived before I wrote it out, meaning I had the idea of what would be the result of that hand beforehand. I came up with the actual cards that the two had, as well as the dealt cards, as I was writing, knowing what I was going for. Since I wanted Yajirobe to bluff and to miss the flop and turn, I made the card order to reflect that.
- "A bluejay landed on the railing of Korin Tower and cried out passionately. The Saiyan boy tried to answer it in song, but his voice wasn’t like a bluejay’s at all. The bird cocked its head and screeched obnoxiously; Ledas sang back at it at the top of his lungs; Yajirobe nearly exploded with impatience." - a bluejay, I think, has no place in autumn, nor some place so cold and high as Korin Tower. I still get a chill when I read this section. The folly of innocence is sometimes reflected in the prose, but more often it is shown in the interactions between Ledas and Yajirobe.
- "Those were the two worst words Yajirobe had ever heard, bless his soul. He lived a simple life and rarely had to deal with extreme situations such as this. It was too much for him. He was used to just giving Goku or the others a handful of senzu beans and going on with his day. But this level of pressure… he hadn’t experienced this much anxiety since that blind lizard alien had tried to kill him." - Yajirobe is so spoiled lol. Also, I originally had the thing that scared Yajirobe be Vegeta in his Great Ape form but I realized as I was writing it out that this takes place after TF, so Yajirobe's encounter with The Benefactor should be more fresh in his mind. This also allowed me to strengthen the coherency of my universe, keeping consistent characterization between stories written several years apart.
- I will always wonder what Ledas had in that hand Yajirobe tried to bluff. He might've had a pocket pair, like sevens or eights, or maybe something like AQ with two spades or QT. Whatever he had, I think it was very strong.
- "“Whatever, man. I’m gonna win this thing.”" - I like how contradicting Yajirobe can be. He can simultaneously not care and at the same time want to win (simply to defend his honor against Korin). Yajirobe's one complicated dude, something the Dragon Ball community rarely gives him credit for.
- "Korin’s voice was as sweet as sugar. He was an elegant cat, a proper courtly jester. He was so fancy, Yajirobe wanted to vomit." - Yajirobe subverts expectations in how he thinks. You would think that if Korin is fancy and elegant, that would produce a positive response in Yajirobe, but it's just the opposite. Word choice, such as what I did here, is part of how I characterized their relationship.
- I love Korin mocking Yajirobe with the senzu bean joke. That joke is brutal - it cuts deep into who Yajirobe is. I think he recognizes it, perhaps not entirely consciously, but this is part of his motivation to go hunting at the end of the story.
- "He had pocket sevens. He was a legend. The wind blew with icy fervency upon his cheeks. The bluejay had left the rail." - Pocket sevens is a decent hand preflop, but nothing to write home about, I think. That Yajirobe thinks he's a legend shows how much of a poker noob he actually is. Also notice how he's played every hand so far while the other two have folded occasionally. Yajirobe's aggressiveness in the game is unexpected (and to be fair, it hasn't been working too well for him) and contrasts with how he acts normally.
- "She was His Majesty’s prized pet cat" - oh kayvee ur makin me blush :0
- Myobu is the same name of the cat in The Pillow Book. Her name actually means fifth rank in Japanese, if I remember correctly.
- Yajirobe correctly notes that Korin starts telling a story as a poker strategy. However, this is also just something that friends do while hanging out together, so I wanted to capture that casual realness in this story as well.
- I love that at one time, some snobby little kitty was better than Korin. I think that somehow this is tied to Yajirobe's earlier line where he said that nobody cares about Korin being a big shot in the past.
- "“Drugs are bad,” Ledas noted. “And don’t forget that being bad is wrong!” He slammed his cup down upon the table enthusiastically, shattering it. The glass fragments that shot forth mostly found their way into Korin’s fur, though a few shards got in Yajirobe’s hair, and he cursed that grey-eyed boy plentifully for his reprehensible nature. Ledas merely cooed like a pigeon in response." - this paragraph is a bit surreal, I suppose. Ledas was being sarcastic with how he was acting, and this isn't as random a bit of dialogue as it seems. Ledas made a few mental jumps from Korin's last line, perhaps a few logical jumps, but he's still responding to Korin, albeit in a humorously surreal way. I find this part to be one of the funnier moments in the story, personally.
- So for the pocket sevens hand, Yajirobe is repping having a straight, meaning he's making it obvious with his bet sizing and aggression that he has a quality hand. Korin probably thinks he has a 3 of some kind, which would complete the straight. Yajirobe might no be thinking at that advanced of a level and might just think his pocket sevens are good, as they are second pair at this point. That's not a bad assumption.
- In The Pillow Book, Lady Myobu is scared by a dog who is then treated very poorly afterwards. It was thematically interesting to me to give Korin the dog's position in this story.
- "It was the king of hearts. There were two overcards to his pocket sevens, but Yajirobe didn’t care. The air was wailing; his stomach was grumbling. This was just a stupid game after all." - I don't think it would actually be so windy, or rather, that Yajirobe would notice it was so windy, if he didn't care about this game and was confident his pair of sevens was good.
- "Yajirobe grunted and wondered if it was time to feast. Clearly not, he knew. He couldn’t feast for at least three hundred more words. That was the price he had to pay for playing this hand so wonderfully." - I am a weak and impatient hominid.
- Goddamn that endoplasmic reticulum joke is funnier than I remember. That little exchange between Ledas and Yajirobe about it came to me randomly a few minutes after I got out of the class where I first heard about the Lady Myobu tale in The Pillow Book. Korin's question that prompts it (and which also leads to the Nir kitty reveal) was added much later; indeed, that wasn't even in the story in the first draft of this scene.
- Part of Yajirobe's impatience comes from his unwillingness to emote around his friends, whereas both Korin and Ledas are more open and casual. I see a bit of myself in the Yajirobe of this story and I think a lot of his actions are forced (at least in his mind). He's acting this way because of the pain of his past and he doesn't want to go there. He had some bad events happen in his past, but so did everyone. It's clear to me now that he is thinking about those things at this point in this story, surely being prompted by Korin's own self-reflection.
- Yeah, so that's why Ledas names his son Nir. The casual triteness of this reveal was deliberate. That said, this was a really nifty thing to add into this story, so good job KV, you were very clever to do that, you're the best, etc., etc., etc.
- Nir was a street urchin, and so was Yajirobe, in his youth.
- "“You gotta beat the best to be the best,” the white-furred beast replied. “Do something, Yajirobe.”" - I just realized there's a neat little double-meaning to this phrase, but it wasn't deliberately-written to be such.
- "The grumpy samurai folded, though he hadn’t wanted to. Korin cackled and dealt another hand. He had half a mind to whip out his katana and cut that arrogant kitty’s favorite cat tower in half, but he restrained himself. It wasn’t yet time." - this is a nod to several of my other stories. At the end of the very last chapter of TF ever, Yajirobe destroys one of Korin's cat towers with his katana. If my memory is correct, Korin goes to replace it with a new piece of kitty furniture in Slick. Yajirobe wants to do this again, implying that this is a general response he has to Korin's prodding. He's probably cut down dozens of cat towers in the past.
- One thing I tried to develop a bit more in this story (something that becomes even more prominent in stories I've written since this one) is having dialogue without character markers, meaning it's not always clear who is talking. You have to work it out based on what clues are given and how the characters talk. It's pretty clear when Ledas talks, when Yajirobe talks, when Korin talks, at least to me, so this just made things a bit cleaner. This is a technique used by a lot of professional authors and has been developing more in my writing recently based on novels I've recently read from English and American modernists as well as WWII era Japanese authors such as Kawabata and Dazai.
- It was important for Ledas to keep Korin on track with telling his story. Korin's like an old man in that way. He reminds me of a teacher I once had who's basically taught the same class for like 30 years, so he has all of his lectures memorized. Whenever he gets lost, he needs like a three word cue to pick up where he once was again, and then he can just drone on for hours and hours without pause if he wanted to. It's funny how some old people can be like that. There's something in the way a story is told that is related to the importance of the content of that story.
- The geese were a specific symbol for this story, one that I drew from Japanese literature (I think Basho's haiku), where geese are seen as harbingers of idiocy and are generally related to stupidity.
- "Farther off in the sky, orange-bellied robins glided and swarmed like swirling leaves." - a specific contrast to the geese, I think.
- "said the senbyo who decided to throw a blind bet into the pot before he even looked at his cards. That morally outraged Yajirobe. He thought back to a boy he’d once known and wondered how Korin had managed to mimic him so." - this is a significant development. Yajirobe begins to think about his own past at this early juncture, knowing full well that Korin is soon going to ask him to tell a tale of his own. We get to see a bit of Yajirobe's fears and anxiety here. His morally outraged moment is a bit of clever humor that is more like the opening paragraphs of this story. The boy he'd once known is likely someone from Spindlerun: The Tale of Yajirobe. I'm not going to reveal who, though.
- It is interesting to me that a common alley cat could make a high-ranking courtly kitty fall for him. In fact, it's astonishing, the kind of tale one would expect to see on the big screen. It's funny that Korin is bemoaning the romanticism of his tale, instead letting his own narcissism color it. I wonder if he ever considered what Lady Myobu wanted. Indeed, there's no evidence that she ever felt anything for Korin, so it's pretty much only his ego that told him they belonged together.
- Ishmael the cat is one of my own cats, and he acts just like Korin describes him in real life.
- "If the old cat’s luck were half as bad as his, the game would already be over." - this is something I say all the time to Hyper Zergling when we play Halo together.
- "The boy was simmering in the tank like Phil Laak after an all-in by Antonio Esfandiari. That was a horribly obscure reference, and Yajirobe felt ashamed of himself for making it. He wanted to slit his own throat. Life is meaningless and full of pain, so they say." - I like this paragraph a lot. It's a neat little meta evolution of my prose, not just from this story up to this point, but in terms of my writing from The Heels of the Unknown to this point. In a gentle way, I'm mocking my own obsession with certain themes, such as nihilism.
- "Korin was goading him, like a dirt farmer dangling a carrot in front of a mule." - this comparison comes from Seinfeld.
- "If Yajirobe cared about anyone, he was hiding it well, even from himself. He didn’t care about this game. He was numb to everything; nothing meant anything to him, except food. He was a simple man with simple tastes, unlike the Saiyan boy. Smoked wild boar was so much better than these inedible chips stacked in front of him like a mini metropolis." - the only thing I want to say about this paragraph is that it is important to remember that Yajirobe is speaking about what he thinks of himself here. His perception of himself as numb and a man of simple tastes may be somewhat reductive.
- "When Yajirobe thought, he thought of salted pork. He thought of fat, short men wading through chest-high water, salivating over what he salivated over. Salted pork was the gift of the gods. When Yajirobe had been five years old, his mother had given him three strips of bacon for his birthday. He’d never had a better birthday since." - some homages to LOTR here, particularly from the opening of the third movie. As well, the backstory I developed here was intended to build off my characterization of Yajirobe first portrayed in Spindlerun.
- "His face was scarlet – the color of Makare’s crumpled body in the light of the burning mountain." - the fact that Yajirobe is unable to prevent his thoughts from connecting the past and present is telling. He doesn't want to remember, but something about this little party, particularly Ledas' presence, has rekindled old memories in the samurai. It's likely he's kept these things buried for most of his time with Korin, so I don't think Korin was the one who triggered them to rise to the surface in this story.
- I don't think I was consciously writing about suppression in this story, though it is obvious to me now as I re-read that that is a major theme. Suppression of emotion doesn't work; you will have to confront your feelings eventually, and Yajirobe is beginning to realize that in this story. The gap between Spindlerun and Not So Far in terms of timeline and in terms of my own writing of them (which was several years apart) makes this aspect of Yajirobe's character development possible, I think.
- "Why was his body reacting against his will?!" - I've often thought this, myself.
- Ledas' story was conceptualized before I wrote it out. I had to pause writing the story to think it up. Korin's story was more of a reference to something else I'd read, so I was able to quickly write and improvise most of it. That was not the case with Ledas' story. I decided to expand on his backstory a bit in a way that wasn't shown in TF and to show a bit more about Saiyan culture and everyday life. Ledas' story was crafted specifically to be shorter than Korin's, but longer than Yajirobe's. In terms of depth of content, it is a much shallower story than Korin's. People with different personalities tell different stories and have varying levels of success in their retellings. Korin is obviously mentally superior than either Yajirobe or Ledas, so his is necessarily more mythological and carefully-crafted than theirs. With that said, the story that Ledas' chooses to tell, and indeed, even how long it takes him to choose that story and reject Korin's earlier goading, is important for his character development.
- The girl's name was based on a girl I knew, and since Ledas doesn't say her full name, I never crafted a vegetable pun for her. But if I was ever going to write out her full name, it would have been given a concrete vegetable pun. Korin calls her Chiharu as a reference to a girl I knew, but that is not her actual full name. He makes an assumption by completing the name himself.
- Mr. Coddington was a substitute biology teacher at a school I went to a while back.
- Poor Yajirobe. His past has shaped him so much. Everyone else thinks he's just being a bitch, but he has legitimate reasons for not telling them about his past. I dare not say any more on this subject.
- While Yajirobe's story appears to be terrible and pointless, I included it in the story, and that alone should tell you what I think of its worth.
- "He’d faced worse odds before… and the last time he’d been in such a predicament, he’d slain the greatest samurai in the world in single combat." - there are two things I want to say about this part of the story: 1, the past rules over all of us - it is human nature to put undue emphasis on the past and to be ruled by nostalgia and the rituals/interests of one's childhood; comparing an epic moment to a mere game of poker, even as dramatic as this moment is in the game, is an unequal comparison.
- This story is full of anti-climaxes. Yaijrobe's final poker hand, after building himself up for a river miracle, is a disaster. This is paralleled in his response to the the end of the game, which is to feel nothing and slink off after food, to give into the distraction that is desire even as he supposedly feels nothing.
- In the opening of the second scene, something is clearly on Ledas' mind. I don't get into what it is specifically, but it's probably related to his partying somehow. Perhaps he's recognizing self-destructive tendencies in himself, and in that way, he's further developed, mentally, than Yajirobe. Notice that throughout their interaction, Yajirobe constantly thinks back to himself and basks in cynicism and ego as if they are his only sources of light.
- The Guac appears in several other stories of mine, including the non-canon The Guacamole Boys Hit the Town from Baby You're a Rich Man, as well as Sandboys, which is also a part of A Short-Lived Dream. It's the closest club to Capsule Corp in West City and will appear in Heart of the Dragon in some capacity. It may only appear in the opening saga of that story, which I don't intend on posting on this site. That saga is just about a semester than Ledas and Ryori spend at school before Dragon Ball: Cold Vengeance and it's basically just a shonen style school story that I probably won't post on this wiki. Anyways, The Guac probably will appear in that saga, but it's unlikely to be seen in HOTD otherwise.
- "Ledas sighed again, blowing warmth in between his palms. “I like this planet, but I don’t care about the rules. I’m not a human. I’ll do whatever I want. So whaddya say?”" - he has an admirable spirit, but perhaps his desire for agency, stemming from his development in TF, is misguided and/or not worth it. Balance and moderation are important considerations that Ledas ultimately ignore.
- "He thought of his youth, of loud music and dark rooms and people stepping on his toes, breathing down his neck, and feeling more alone than he’d ever felt before." - this memory is from before the start of Spindlerun. Some aspects of Ledas' urban alienation are reflected in Yajirobe's past.
- "The boy smiled sadly. “If you wanna be a party animal, Mr. Yajirobe, you gotta learn to live in the jungle.”" - this sentence is a reference to a lyric from Good Grief by Bastille.
- The haiku comes about from me taking a class on Japanese literature at the time that was specifically looking at the haiku of Basho and other legendary poets. I was inspired by that to write a lot of haiku, some of which were used in Chasing Oblivion. Ledas' haiku was written for this story and I made it decent but not great on purpose. I still think it's okay, but it's certainly not as good as I could have made it. I don't think it would make sense for Ledas to be a master haiku poet, given his personality. Still, it's a touching moment, I think. Ledas expresses his emotions to Yajirobe, showing his gratitude laid bare, and that's the final impetus for triggering Yajirobe's moment of action at the end of this story. I don't really know how to articulate the feeling I get from Ledas' haiku, but I will try thusly: a similar feeling is evoked when Yajirobe looks off into the sunset and sees the geese disappearing into the light and when Yajirobe feels the wind on his face. The gentle emotions presented in this story are meant to be less dramatic than some of the moments in my previous one-shots but that does not mean they are less important or profound.
- "He wasn’t one for poetry, especially not this lovey-dovey, sentimental crap. Yajirobe crumpled up the piece of paper and pocketed it." - This is a good example of how cynical the prose is in this story. Sometimes it's more humorously cynical, but make no mistake, Not So Far is a deeply cynical and nihilistic tale. With that said, these two lines roused more emotion in me than any others when I wrote the story. I came the closest to crying when I wrote these lines.
- The broom chase scene was an intended corruption of Goku and Master Roshi having to chase Korin to get his sacred water. I suppose it's interesting that Ledas got that tap water earlier in this story, whereas Yajirobe doesn't get any.
- The loss of the boar is a loss that Yajirobe allows himself to feel, because he's a gluttonous scrub, obviously. Anyways, on a nuanced level, Yajirobe goes through a transformation at this moment as he reconiles various parts of his consciousness and confronts other types of pain as he has confronted this one - not through reveling in pain, but through action. Action vs. thought is a theme going on with Yajirobe here.
- "So sitting – pouting – he reached over and grabbed a stalk of broccoli and dipped it in the pork puddle. Looking over the miserable vegetable, he thought it looked a lot like Ledas’ hair." - this was fun to do. Some allusions to Broly with Ledas here, but I dare not say anything else about that.
- The vile weed joke references this.
- It was nice to be able to do some character development that grows out from the Spindlerun storyline. I feel for Yajirobe. There is shame in one of his greatest moments. He defeated Makare, pulled off a miraculous feat of strength and skill, and yet, from that, all that he focuses on is that his master's eyes were disappointed when he returned and Brian didn't. That he associates Brian with Ledas further complicates the matter. Yajirobe's shame manifests in guilt and anxiety, and to overcome them, he abandons the trappings of his mind and sets out to do an action, to revel in the finer points of nostalgia, perhaps. But more importantly, he does something he wants to do at the end, which may not seem like much to a normal person, but Yajirobe is far from normal and far from mentally healthy.
- The final line is a reference to a quote Tai Kaliso occasionally says after getting a kill in Gears of War 2 & 3 multiplayer.
I find the prose of this story to be enthralling. It's witty, cynical, and gentle - a style combination I haven't really used anywhere else. After re-reading this story for this anthology, I believe that the prose style was a success. I also just really liked seeing Korin and Yajirobe and Ledas interacting in a laid-back environment, as friends. Their stories were fun to develop. Backstories being revealed like this in casual ways, and the nifty little mention of the Nir cat being the inspiration for Ledas later naming one of his children that, is really cool. There's a sense of karumi here - Basho's haiku aesthetic ideal that he developed in the last months of his life. I'm going to just quote a section from an essay I did on Basho about this subject - it explains the joy I get from reading this story, I hope: "This style of haiku is not another sabi, the other major aesthetic idea that Basho used in many of his haiku; rather, karumi expresses a mature sensibility of the haikai spirit, the true poeticification of that form, and a subtle mingling of haikai playfulness and humor with the emotion of sabi. As Basho said himself in 1693, around a year before his death, “Keep your mind in a high realm of enlightenment, and then return to the realm of the mundane”". So anyways, I adore this story. I'll give it an S.
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Part 71 ---->