This one was one of my later ideas for I Wouldn't Want to Be a Fish Right Now. I got the idea for a short introspective story about Android 17 and his PTSD about getting absorbed by Cell when I watched him get absorbed during my rewatch of Dragon Ball Z. It's interesting to me that I got so many ideas while watching the Cell Arc. I would not have expected that going into it. Anyways, I also came up with the idea for showing Master Shen and Mercenary Tao die in a pathetic way after seeing the filler scene with Tao and that guy in the forest with the Dragon Ball during the lead up to the Cell Games. These were originally going to be two different stories.
During my culling of the ideas down to 14, I decided to combine these stories, as having Android 17 kill Shen and Tao solved the issue of who would do that (as I don't think any humans would be able to manage to kill them, pathetic as they are), and once I decided to do that, the entire story kind of came together rather quickly. The idea that they would try to steal a minotaurus in order to make some easy money fit their characters well and gave 17 a good excuse to kill them.
The Shen and Tao stuff was important for Android 17's character development, but I was personally more interested in the first scene where I could explore 17's PTSD a little bit. I didn't want to go overboard with it, only dealing with it in a light way that is emblematic of the writing style I employed for all stories in this collection.
Unlike the three jo-ha-kyū stories, this one was not written to be comedic. This story is the first of the four that deal with the aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which is an aesthetic focused on the finding the beauty in imperfect things. There is some minor meta joke going on with this being chosen for a story that was induced by Imperfect Cell absorbing Android 17. The aesthetic is dealt with on two levels - the physical, and the emotional. The physical aspect of it is seen in the first scene in particular with the physical description of 17's house, and especially his bathroom sink, as well as the annoying bug that disturbs the tranquil peace inside the home. The PTSD aspect, which is lightly touched upon, is also tied to wabi-sabi, for that traumatic experience made 17 imperfect, slightly broken, and slightly messed up, but perhaps that was a moment of character growth that was ultimately for the better.
This was the ninth story in the collection that I wrote. I started it on January 26, 2020, two days after I wrote the first draft of Bean Daddy. I wrote this one-shot out of order, doing the second scene first. That took me 34 minutes, although I split it up between the morning and evening of the 26th. After finishing it, I took a 13 minute break and then dove into the first scene, finishing that in 21 minutes.
I edited this story on April 6, 2020. I added quite a bit of prose while also removing quite a bit. Indeed, the entire scene in the bathroom was added in during the editing phase, as I didn't think the wabi-sabi theme was strong enough in the first draft. Still, once I had finished, I was satisfied with the story and did not feel like it needed more editing, so it was done at that point. It was posted to the wiki five days later when I finished editing the other wabi-sabi stories in this collection. There were very few problems with this story. It was easy to write the first draft, and the second draft, although stuff was added and removed, was not difficult. With that said, it took me 2 hours and 2 minutes to edit this story which was more than twice as long as it took me to write out the first draft. I think this one came out well, but I don't remember super well, so we'll see in the endnotes.
Sometimes, especially at night when he closed his eyes and tried to sleep, he felt as if he were being sucked into that monster’s body again. As long as he lived, he would never forget that moment. Seventeen! Look out behind you! Then the beast had come up before him, so proud with his ambush that he had licked his lips in delight. You should have listened to your friend.
He shuddered, splashing cold water onto his face and taking several deep breaths. It was alright; he was safe, and Cell was dead. Confronting his emotions with logic did little to sooth them, however. In the wilderness of Monster Island, Seventeen lived with his wife, their daughter, and their adopted sons. That was it. No other human contact was viable, nor desired. Sure, the kids went to the mainland for school, but he rarely came into contact with any humans save for his family and poachers (and the odd video call with his government liaison every six or so months).
Five more had arrived that morning, before the sun had risen. He had vaporized them, like those who had come before. Seventeen was not about to let their carcasses pollute the island with their presence. The poachers were seeking the Minotaurus, of which there were only a handful remaining. It was his job to protect them. He had been astute, always vigilant during the waking hours, but they had started sneaking in under cover of darkness as well. He did his best to patrol the island, but even androids had to sleep occasionally. A trio had snuck onto the wildlife reserve the previous night. It had been nothing to end their lives, but even so, all these deaths were starting to weigh on him. Why so many were willing to throw their lives away for the immortality elixir, he could not understand. Perhaps it was ironic, but at the same time, the desperation behind their actions made him feel ill.
His lip was trembling. He tried to stop it, but could not. He and his family hadn’t lived there for even two years. At first, the poachers had shown up in a few ragtag bands. For almost two weeks, it had been pretty bad, but after word of Seventeen’s power had spread through the poachers’ circles, they had seemingly given up. For a time, nobody had been willing to set foot on Monster Island. Those months had been good. He longed for those days.
Now, the poachers had grown desperate enough to send in teams at all hours of the day, completely aware that he would hunt down most of them. They were banking on the wild hope of one or two groups slipping in while he slept to steal the Minotaurus’ horns. To Seventeen’s shame, that had worked for them two times before, and so, it was no great mystery why they were keeping at their costly strategy. He knew he had to be better.
This house had belonged to the previous park ranger. It was older than Seventeen. He liked that about the place. It wasn’t in the best condition (the roof over his bedroom leaked, and there were plenty of bugs), yet that only added to his appreciation of this place. It would have been unnatural to live in a mansion in the forest. His gaze lingered on the old faucet, its dull color no longer silver, but faded to foggy grey. It was chipped in several places along its face. Running his thumb down it, he took another deep breath and returned to the kitchen.
She was talking about her research on the island’s raptor population, and her intention to increase their numbers by at least thirty percent by the end of the year. He had heard this speech three times already, so it was easy to zone out. Seventeen was not proud to admit it. He loved her. But sometimes, this feeling was overwhelming. His eyes lazily followed a tiny green bug buzzing around the table, looking for scraps. He had half a mind to zap it.
His daughter kissed him goodbye before her mother flew her in their Capsule Corp. plane to kindergarten, and that snapped him out of it for a while. The boys, being two years younger, required tending to for breakfast. Of course, that had been left for him to do. After finishing his meal, suppressing a succession of yawns, Seventeen woke them up, dragged them to the kitchen, and warmed them up some leftovers. They didn’t like the eggs much, but that’s why there was bacon too. Even toddlers were aware enough to know bacon was the best food in the world.
For a man possessing infinite energy, he was finding the human part of himself–that which needed sleep–to be remarkably stubborn. He was glad to be alone with the boys, at least. They were too young to tax him mentally. Nevertheless, weary as he was, Seventeen could not shake the memories of his past, no matter how hard he tried. His mouth had gone dry. Even while he played with the boys in their room, supervising their building of a lego city, he was unable to shake the memory of that beast springing upon him in all its insidious glee, its tail falling over him, and all going dark. That had been when he had lost control.
He never wanted to lose control.
As luck would have it, Seventeen was only able to spend about eight minutes with the toddlers before he noticed the smoke rising in the distance. Moreover, two power readings had entered the island. He silently cursed himself for losing focus. Nonetheless, their power readings were extraordinary for poachers. These two could have competed at a high level in the World Martial Arts Tournament. His programming told him that one was of a similar power reading (although slightly weaker) to that of the Crane Hermit–the man who had trained Tien Shinhan. The other reading was slightly higher, and did not exactly correspond to any noteworthy warrior.
He sensed them approaching the Minotaurus reserve. They were moving more quickly than the usual poachers. He glanced down at the boys, running his hand through the nearest one’s hair, a grin forming on his lips, before placing them in their cribette so they wouldn’t get into any trouble while he was away. He walked to their door. Then, sensing the poachers’ increasing speed, he ran to the front door, and kicked off, shooting across the island with all of his energy.
The green bug was in his eye the entire time. He couldn’t quash the bloody damn thing, and it was starting to become more than a bother.
There came a day when the old Crane Hermit and Mercenary Tao, having lost favor in the world at large, showed up on Monster Island searching for glory. Like any good poachers, they had come for the horns of a Minotaurus, which could be made into an immortality elixir in some obscure context (which needn’t be detailed, for it’s filthy business). Finding the reserve very much stocked with animals, and very poorly guarded, Tao scouted the land, soon spotting the legendary beasts drinking in a ravine deep in the heart of the island.
There, he and the Crane Hermit butchered a Minotaurus, draining its blood in the river leading out to sea.
They drug its carcass through the forest, chortling together at their luck.
Many years ago, the Crane Hermit and his brother had taken an immortality elixir to become immortal (as one does). Suffice to say, they had been around for hundreds of years, so it had to have worked. This is not to say that Minotaurus horns had been involved in their previous ritual. In fact, it was not at all clear how Tao and his brother knew of Monster Island in the first place. Such trifling matters were not important in this context.
Seedy as chili pepper, they slunk through the forest. In high spirits, Tao fired off a Dodon Ray at a rabbit for looking at him sideways.
That proved to be a most unfortunate error, as seconds later, Seventeen, wearing his pajamas and holding a hunting rifle, appeared before the two, a snarling frown upon his face.
“What did you do…?!”
“Oh, do shut up, young man.”
“We’re taking this boar back with us. It attacked us, we defended ourselves, and now we have use for its meat. Fair’s fair.”
“That is no boar. It’s a Minotaurus. But you already knew that. Don’t play dumb. You poachers are all the same.”
“How dare you?! You will not slander the reputation of the Crane School!”
“Nor of Mercenary Tao, the greatest assassin the world has ever known!” added his brother.
“I know who you are. You taught Tien,” he said with a nod. “I’m not surprised.”
They were stunned that he knew that. He hardly cared. Seventeen aimed his rifle at the men, causing them to raise their hands as if in surrender. Yet in the next moment, Tao fired a Dodon Ray at him, the old cybernetic mess that he was. The android had merely to twitch his neck to dodge the attack. The man was surprisingly accurate with his aim, even if his technique was slow and weak. Seventeen fired two shots.
They each swatted the bullet sent for them aside.
He tossed the gun to the forest floor. That they were of sufficient strength to dodge bullets made this all the more pathetic. “You’re not leaving with that.”
“Go on and get, or we’ll kill you!” the Crane Hermit spat.
“You have ten seconds to try whatever you wish. After that, I’m going to break your necks.”
For a moment, they sneered and leered, and made no action. Then panic set in and they attacked with a pair of Dodon Rays. These were faster than the one conjured before. He could tell they had put most of their energy into this attempt.
As Dodon Rays pierced through Seventeen’s afterimage, he kneed them, one after another, feeling their feeble old bones shatter against his kneecaps. They fell gasping and choking; yawning, he landed behind them, watching them lie there spasming in pain until they were gone. Only then did he destroy their bodies.
“I’m sorry, buddy,” he murmured to the slain beast before vaporizing it too. “I won’t let that happen again.”
Another flash of light pulsed through the forest, and from a nearby branch, a red-footed booby gave him a throaty squawk. Picking up his rifle and kicking off from the ground, he chirped back at it, doing his best impression, which spooked the poor bird badly, causing it to fall off the branch in a cloud of feathers.
- The name for this story comes from a native Japanese idiomatic expression: 鶴の一声 (one word from the crane). Essentially what this means is that the crane, in Japanese culture, is regarded so highly that it is not to be question. It is an authoritative voice, and one word alone is enough to be the final word on a matter. This is an ironic name, as the Crane Hermit by this point is a disgraced petty outlaw, fallen far from where he once had been.
- I rewatched the scene where 17 got absorbed by Cell before writing this story and used the English dub dialogue from that episode in the opening paragraph. I wanted to have Tien's line in the flashback too as a tie-in to the Crane Hermit later on.
- I think Android 17 took solace in the fact that he rarely had to see or talk to other people outside of his family and poachers.
- The opening scene was meant to only lightly touch upon Cell, as Android 17 has been living with the memories of being absorbed for several years at this point. It's a dull pain in the back of his mind, so to speak. His anxiety shifts to the more pressing issue of the poachers fluidly because that is of more immediate concern, but it's not overall what weighs on him more. The agitation of his memories about Cell is part of what is making him stress out about the poachers so much. Of course, the poachers are a problem and are wearing him out, but that's not the entirety of why his emotions are so raw.
- Android 17 underestimates the lengths people will go to in order to satisfy their greed, just as he did with Imperfect Cell.
- 17 is not perfect. Even he needs to sleep. That is why several Minotaurus were hunted down before. Those were learning experiences for him, as is the scenario that happens in the second scene of this story. By the time of Dragon Ball Super, his island security and patrol routines have far improved (as I use anime canon, not manga canon, there are no living Cell Jrs. on the island until such a thing appears in the anime). I thought it would be more interesting if 17 struggled with his duties at first, even though his foes are so much weaker than him.
- "It would have been unnatural to live in a mansion in the forest." - this is one of the more important lines in the story as I think it speaks not to just the physical house, but to 17's mental state too.
- The bug is a symbolic creature. 17 doesn't zap it, letting it continue to buzz around, annoy him, make his emotions fester when a clean, brutal action could have put an end to it. The little green bug is also the same color as Cell, so there's that too.
- It was interesting to explore 17's weariness, as being an infinite energy android, we don't get to see much of that in his fights. I don't think he himself is used to the feeling, so in a weird way he lacks power in this story - he can't sleep, can't take on all of the poachers at once. The feeling is becoming overwhelming. That's not to say that there is supposed to be an easy solution to these problems, or perhaps at all. Time wears down everything, from the houses to people, including infinite energy androids.
- Bacon is by far the best food in the world.
- Because of the strategy they are employing, the poachers are getting the better of Seventeen, and he feels powerless to stop them. It is an unnatural feeling - the last time he had such a feeling was when Cell absorbed him.
- I thought it made sense that the Crane Hermit and Tao would be in 17's memory banks. Gero was quite the thorough designer. However, Cyborg Tao was stronger than Mercenary Tao, and I did not think that Gero updated his memory banks for Cyborg Tao, as by that point, Tao had faded into obscurity.
- 17 was a little too slow to react to Tao and Shen - a sign that he is dreadfully tired. Were he well-rested, the two would have burned before getting to the Minotaurus.
- The second section features a bit more humorous prose than the first. I didn't think there was much to joke about in the first section, but mocking Shen and Tao was possible, so that is why there was a shift in tone once the two of them were introduced. Like most characters who die in this one-shot collection, I try to build them up to be as pathetic as possible before they go.
- I wanted the description of Shen and Tao killing the Minotaurus to be as short as possible, with the focus on the blood mixing with the water more so than a physical description of the actual killing. It added more weight to the beast's death by under-describing its last moments and instead focusing on the pollution of blood into the stream, which is Tao's and Shen's doing.
- I don't think Shen and Tao used the Minotaurus horns in the past to achieve immortality for themselves, but you never know. It was probably the ghost grass like with Roshi.
- All of the poachers would have known about Android 17. Shen and Tao did the gig, most likely, because it was becoming increasingly difficult for poachers to find people to pay to go to that island. I'm sure someone paid them millions of zeni to go. Their pride probably insulated them from having any fear of 17. They must have thought he was no stronger than any quarter-finalist at a World Martial Arts Tournament.
- I had 17 hold the rifle because he had one in his brief appearance in the Majin Buu arc. He doesn't need to use such an inelegant weapon, but he seems to like carrying one, so yeah. Dunno why he does that, really. Maybe it makes the hunt more entertaining? Or maybe it conceals his power from people like Shen and Tao who will think less of him for carrying the gun and thus let their guard down around him, allowing for their deaths to be even more pathetic.
- "“How dare you?! You will not slander the reputation of the Crane School!”" - I find this type of person to be utterly reprehensible. Faking outrage over something that is true, and that everyone in the conversation knows is true, is one of the scummiest things a person can do in any context.
- No mention of the Crane Hermit training Chiaotzu, because I mean, he didn't do a good job there. Chiaotzu is also just plain awful so I didn't want him to be so much as mentioned.
- It was interesting to pit a cyborg against an android. Really shows the technological inferiority of Tao, not just his inferior training. And this is also symbolic of how much of a worse person he is than 17.
- "“You have ten seconds to try whatever you wish. After that, I’m going to break your necks.”" - because of how guilty 17 feels about letting the Minotaurus die, he's not his usual smug self. With that said, the above line showed a little bit of his cool, yet arrogant battle personality seeping in. He's very matter-of-fact about how he's going to deal with them. The bug from the previous section was instructive for this, as the old men are little more than pests, despite being able to dodge the bullets. He shot at them just to see if they were of sufficient strength and power to swat the bullets aside, not to actually try to kill them, so that he would be able to plan the best one-hit-kill move on them without expending much power, as they don't deserve to make him use even 1% of his potential.
- "Another flash of light pulsed through the forest, and from a nearby branch, a red-footed booby gave him a throaty squawk. Picking up his rifle and kicking off from the ground, he chirped back at it, doing his best impression, which spooked the poor bird badly, causing it to fall off the branch in a cloud of feathers." - I do this with my chickens a lot. Most of the time they will talk back to me when I mimic their sounds, but sometimes they get spooked really bad. This ending was added in to take the focus away from Shen and Tao, for they are nothing but feeble old warriors, long past the days of their prime, and hardly worth a second thought. I don't think 17 ever told Tien about the two, for Tien would not have cared about them dying. They were dead to him many years ago.
- The climax of this story does not result in the resolution of either of Android 17's problems - his PTSD, and the poaching problem. That was a deliberate choice, as I don't think there are easy solutions to the former (perhaps 17 never got over it, or perhaps the emotion of it dulled with time). The latter issue is one I think 17 got more under control as time went on. Once his reputation built up enough and the body counts rose high enough, even the richest of poachers would not have been able to hire enough bodies to go to Monster Island at all hours of the night. Also, 17's wife probably designed a safety enclosure for them to stay in at night to help with that, but that's just speculation.
I liked this one a lot of the reread. It's more serious than the previous one-shots in I Wouldn't Want to Be a Fish Right Now, which brings an interesting contrast to the jo-ha-kyū style. My favorite part of this story was when Android 17 was in the bathroom admiring his old home, and how that related to his mental state throughout the story. I also liked the parallelism of that little bug with Shen and Tao. It was nice to give them such a pathetic and quick end - nothing more than they deserved of course, but having written for Shen especially in Nineteen Assassins, this was personally satisfying.
<---- Part 128
Part 130 ---->