Like many of my stories, Spindlerun was taken from The Legacies Collection. Much like In Requiem, this story was removed from that pool of ideas (it exists on the page as The Good Life (Yajirobe), and was supposed to span two episodes) after I realized that I could write a much longer story about Yajirobe. The original plot was always going to be about Yajirobe becoming a samurai. Even on my original blog about Legacies (before that story was even named!), I had decided this. Regardless, The Legacy Collection eventually collapsed due to a variety of issues. I won't go over that again in this commentary. But this story idea survived.
Anyway, I didn't create the page for Spindlerun until August 22, 2011, which was on my birthday. I actually posted the page at the precise minute I was born as well. I did not immediately work on Spindlerun, as I hadn't worked out much of the plot by the time I created that page. All I really knew was what I put at the top of the page - a summary which remains to this day. I knew the general plot would follow Yajirobe's training from being a samurai to him finding Goku. So that meant that I would have to cover quite a bit more ground than originally intended with the Legacies idea. I posted the first chapter about 3 months after creating the page, and then averaged a chapter about every two months until the last two, which I managed to complete within a week of one another. One other thing I want to note is that throughout the process, only one chapter name was changed, and almost none of the rest of the page was ever changed. Considering how many chapters and how many bytes Spindlerun has, it has remarkably few edits. This is due to how much pre-planning I did for ever aspect of the page.
Spindlerun is unique in that I created outlines for each chapter before writing the chapter. I have not done this for any other story of mine. These outlines allowed for me to work with the plot before writing the story. The outlines usually went through some editing before being finalized. Because of this, I was able to weave a very complicated plot together - one that often had various payoffs thousands, if not tens of thousands of words later. All of this was due to me using outlines.
Now, at the bottom of the page, I wrote a postword. This was essentially my first anthology page, as I wrote some cursory endnotes for the entire story as well as comments on the writing process in general. Seeing as this commentary already exists, it would be foolish of me to simply re-type it again in different words. So here is what I said about the writing process when I completed the story in August of 2012, just under a year after I started Spindlerun:
Firstly, it began with research. Using Dragon Ball Wiki, I found that Mr. Satan was only 1 year younger than Yajirobe, something I never would have thought otherwise. The entire basis for the plot came from having Mr. Satan and his brother being there as a third party to the two samurai factions. Seeing that Yajirobe could be any age before 18, I opted for 14 to give myself some leeway if necessary, which made Mr. Satan 13. Of all the Dragon Balls (pre-DB, so this is before the first wish), only the seven star ball was available, so I had to know to somehow use it, but get it to Ox King's castle by the end. It was important to the story to not use the cliche of having all seven balls, but using a single ball to make a difference; something which never really is done in stories, or even in the actual manga. And then, I saw that using other characters where I could was necessary. The Red Ribbon Army hadn't started looking for Dragon Balls yet, so they were available, and Launch wasn't with Roshi yet, so she was too. After having all of that, the plot flowed rather naturally. I knew at the end that I wanted to accomplish a few other things. Namely, I would explain how Yamcha got his face scarred before the 23rd tourney, and how Yajirobe got his mask. The rest of the characters, Daniel, Elijah, Kumo, Makare, Naigo, came out of the plot needed to have some kind of conflict. The research also bled over to general samurai stuff, as I wasn't comfortably knowledgeable on how samurais fully operate. Almost all of the sword-work and Elijah's maxims were researched and made very accurate.
The research done, I created a list of words and phrases I wanted to use. The "What a maroon!", "That's ridiculous, it's borderline cumulus!", etc, were phrases I wanted to use prior to writing any chapters, and I had those on a page of specifics. There were others, such as using the Jabillo trees and having Mark constantly be referred to as a devil. Particularly important in this part was the use of Launch. She was meant to only be in a few episodes, so I had come up with her clash with Blue early on, knocking over a table and spilling pepper. In fact, I had that worked out before I even knew Blue's hat would get stolen. These specifics were easy to add in, and by the last chapter, every single one of them was used.
There was also a word list, of rare/unusual/nonstandard words that I planned on using throughout the story. Those are in the picture to the right, which I wrote out in varying handwriting. Every word on there, except for ecod is used in Spindlerun at least once.
The fourth part was the outline. This is the only story I have yet done this for, so I will put in all of my outlines for every chapter below. Note that they are not always accurate, as when I'm writing the chapters, sometimes they naturally lean me towards doing things differently. I haven't changed the outlines at all, however. The chapter 3 outline is ridiculously long, but after that, I made an effort to keep them shorter, because the shorter and more succinct an outline is, the more use it ultimately proved to have. Each outline was written almost immediately after I finished the chapter previously, and some of them remained for weeks before I attempted writing to them:
Chapter 1 Outline: The story begins in a butcher store, with a boy wanting to buy some food. He doesn’t have enough money to buy anything, so he is turned away. In addition, the man is closing up shop because the Red Ribbon army is coming. The boy goes outside and sees the city in exodus. Seeing all of his food shops closed up, he takes the advice of a poster and goes to a samurai camp. He doesn’t know that it is a samurai camp; he just goes for the promise of food. He is revealed to be Yajirobe. When he gets there, he finds a whole group of children. They are immediately taken into a room, past a statue, and forced to hold a position. Those who break the position must leave. Yajirobe meets both Brian and Harotu at this time, but he is not fond of them. Only ten students manage to hold the position until the instructor gets back. When she does, she gives them a “mission”. They must intercept the Red Ribbon Army, which is on approach to the city, and steal the hat of the commanding General. A few students leave and will not do it. Brian has an idea to use the fruit of a sandbox tree to distract the army as they isolate and take the hat from the general. Yajirobe is forced to do the deed. He manages to get the hat with little effort and everyone leaves before the army can realize what happens.
Chapter 2 Outline: Makare is sitting on the side of the mountain. Naigo comes down, and the two discuss Ki and the monks living up there. Launch is introduced at this time. The next scene is during the morning, in the Iboinoshishi School; Yajirobe and the others are eating, discussing the things they had done. They are taken out to the grasslands. The Daimyo is there; Yajirobe is shocked to see that the man in the statue is real. The Daimyo asks Yajirobe, who was the victor of yesterday who is the second strongest. Yajirobe says Harotu is the second strongest, and is allowed to fight him; Harotu is given the advantage of having a Bokken. He and Yajirobe fight, but cannot best each other. The others spar too. Brian and Anders fight. Anders takes a cheap shot, knocking the wind out of Brian, making him cry out. Harotu gives him the nickname “(Whiney) Biney” thereafter. Anders gets all confident and says he’s better than both Yajirobe and Harotu. The Daimyo responds by letting Anders duel him. Anders does not even touch the Daimyo before he toe taps Anders to the ground; he is hurt extremely badly, making a team of helpers come out and rush him away. He does not return, ever. Next scene is of Launch. She is spying on the boys, but does not move. Next scene is of Blue; he meets his client, by phone, and is given his instructions. He appears shocked at what it is he has to do, but remembering his duty, he gathers himself up, and his troops march away to the mountain. Next scene is Yajirobe and everyone else on an abandoned bridge. The Daimyo orders them to traverse it immediately. He had rigged it with traps and whatnot to test their awareness. All five reach the end, but they have their share of troubles. In fact, Brian seems to be the most capable of this part, but it is a close race and too early to tell. At the end, the Daimyo gives a short, awkward speech about the necessity of awareness over all else. Nothing – including power and ability - is more important than being aware of your enemy and your surroundings. Final scene is in first person; the speaker has trouble finding a lost item and it drives him crazy as he searches for it. He contemplates over several mundane things that are very important to him. A phone rings; on it is General Blue. He tells the person he is done and expects his reward. The man hangs up on Blue.
Chapter 3 Outline: Starts out with Makare and Naigo sparring. They are in the forest at the edge of the mountain. Makare shows his sword prowess and guile, which shows that he is not only a formidable opponent, but a brilliant strategist. He defeats Naigo. It cuts to Yajirobe and the three others. They are training with bokkens on wooden dummies and with each other. Elijah is there, not showing any signs of his wounded leg. Yajirobe speculates that he is good at hiding his emotions. The four remaining boys are still in shock at the death of their comrade in front of their eyes, yet all of them have stayed. Elijah is dissatisfied with their training, and wishes to make them gain experience more quickly. He takes the four boys to a wine orchard, the one that sits in front of their school. Elijah is in his best gear. They happen upon a boy, standing on a barrel, who lets them in. His name is Mark. Elijah asks if he can use some of the barrels, promising to pay for them. Mark agrees so long as he is allowed to tag along (he looks to be about a year younger than Yajirobe). Elijah tests their awareness by lining the hills with barrels and letting them roll down, with the boys at the bottom. They have to dodge anything coming at them. The lot still have their bokkens with them, and Brian comes up with an ingenious idea to use their bokkens to puncture the barrels as they roll down, shattering them and making them go away. Elijah sees this and is impressed. Yajirobe dodges some of the barrels by jumping, which also impresses Elijah. Harotu uses the other boy to help him climb a tree and miss the barrels. This impresses Elijah too. At the conclusion of it, it becomes evening and they return back to base. Mark was a loudmouth in their stay and they are happy to be leaving. They ask Elijah why he took them there and he tells them that at his own house, the Master had come to him and done this same exercise. The way he had defeated it was with his small ball – throwing it and shattering the barrels, somewhat like how Brian had done it. Later that night, Yajirobe is restless and Brian is up. Harotu and Yajirobe talk about going into town, discussing the places they like. Brian requests to come, as does the second nameless child. They all go into town, when Yajirobe spies a car. Yajirobe jumps into it and crosses the wires, causing it to start up. The others get in. They joyride, making quite a racket as they go. They curve up and turn into a small enclave. In it is General Blue. He is at a karaoke stand and is singing some popular song when the car comes and crashes into the karaoke machine. This stops the song and agitates Blue. He draws his gun and points it at the four boys. Cuts to Launch. She is walking down the street, preparing to call Makare when she notices the boys she had seen before on the bridge. There were four of them still alive. She puts her phone away, draws a knife and runs at them. As she does, Blue shoots one of the boys, the nameless one. The shot hits him in the heart and kills him. Hearing the shot, everyone scatters, including Launch. She ducks behind the wreckage. When she comes out, she attacks Brian, but he dodges her, showing his skills he had learned. Harotu pushes Brian out of the way and kicks Launch back. She falls into Blue. Blue obviously gets all anxious around her. She loses track of the boys, who run off, and turns to Blue. He takes offense and shoots at her. She dodges and runs at him with her knife. They fight for a bit before tumbling out into an outside restaurant. The pepper, of course, gets spilled, causing Launch to sneeze. The scuffle is over and Blue doesn’t see Launch any more. She changes back into her blue form and wanders off. Cuts to the next day, as this all happened at night. In the early morning Naigo comes out, agitated with all his ferocity. He is inside a cave. There are bodies everywhere. He lets out a shriek. He calls up Makare and tells him the news. Makare is shown to have been trying to contact Launch and failing. He agrees to take matters into his own hands for a few days and tells Naigo to calm down, get his men, and stay put. Naigo does so and sits down. He unsheathes his knife and picks up a corpse. He looks it over before telling it he will eat it. End of chapter.
Chapter 4 Outline: Starts in first person, Daniel begins the second stages of his attack against both Makare and Elijah, with him coming out of Makare’s fortress cave, unnoticed, having just planted a bunch of explosives in there to collapse at a later time. Switches to a scene with Harotu and Yajirobe in the city. They end up finding Brian, and try to get something to eat. Yajirobe can’t pay for anything with only 3 zeni. Switches scenes. Naigo’s soldiers arrive with Makare, and they overlook the samurai school, planning on when to attack. Cuts back to Yajirobe. They also find Mark (Mr. Satan), who fights Yajirobe and beats him. They all stay in town, however. Cuts to Kumo, who with the help of servants, is applying treatment to The Daimyo’s damaged knee. Back in the city, from the point of view of a Makare soldier, General Blue has since left Orange Star City, but torched a good deal of it before he left. Makare gets words that the boys are in the city, and goes personally to see them. They fight him, but all three are not good enough. He is going to kill them, but The Daimyo comes and intervenes. The two briefly duel before Makare leaves. The Daimyo sees only three boys left, doesn’t question it, and tells them he expects them back by tomorrow morning, giving them no punishment. Brian and Harotu leave with him, but Yajirobe stays, thinking over whether he really wants to be a samurai. He is out in the grasslands, outer-area place of the town, where there are parks and whatnot. He is tired and tries to use a bench, but cannot. It requires 5 zeni to sit on, and he does not have that much money.
Chapter 5 Outline: Like wolves, the samurai of Makare begin gathering around the school. Makare requests Naigo leads them, as he has personal business to attend to. Naigo’s forces are not yet large enough to assault the Academy. At the school, Elijah trains the three boys in sword work. As they train, they can see and hear the army coming in around them. Harotu breaks under the pressure and gives up his training. Several days of training continue, but as the forces around them get larger and larger, Elijah suddenly stops, and orders his two remaining pupils to go fetch a small orange ball for him at Daniel’s winery. When they get there, they find it in ruins, and Daniel dead. They find Makare there, and he chases them right back to the school, which is being attacked. Though the two boys fight off many soldiers, and Kumo helps them, Elijah is not fighting. He seems unconcerned, and even when Brian goes and gets him, he simply admits defeat, and hands the two boys over to Makare. Makare thinks this is a game, and orders them be placed in his mountain stronghold while he figures out what game Elijah is playing at.
Chapter 6 Outline: Starts in flashback, first person with Daniel. He talks about how he and Elijah have worked up a way to kill Makare. The signal that he was to detonate the bombs in the cave was to be when a child came to give him an orange ball. Mark is there, and Daniel tells Mark all about how he is proud of his brother, etc. Makare comes at that point. He and Daniel duel, but Daniel, who lacks a weapon is severely outclassed and killed. Mark does get away. Cuts to real time with Brian and Yajirobe in separate chambers. Although they have been searched, Brian still has the dragon ball. He talks with Yajirobe through a hole in the cave walls, and they discuss a means of escape. This is cut short by Naigo coming and taking Brian. Naigo then tortures him about where the old master’s grave is. Yajirobe meets his guard and sees it’s the man he spared. That man agrees to let Yajirobe out. At this time, Naigo is torturing Brian, who gets away. He sees Harotu’s pack of fireworks, and creating a spark, lights them on fire and throws them at Naigo, but this doesn’t do much except explode. Naigo grabs Brian, cuts him open, and starts pulling out his guts, and eats him alive. However, the explosion near the roof has triggered Daniel’s explosions which go off now. Yajirobe just barely gets out when everything starts exploding, so by the time he is outside, he doesn’t know where Brian is. Brian and Naigo and everyone else are killed in the explosion. On a tree outside the door is a note and a katana. The notes talks about how Elijah knew that whoever was reading it was the best samurai. He looks at the katana, and it has Brian’s name inscribed on it. Not much farther down the path is Makare who is alive, but damaged by the explosion. He fights Yajirobe. Yajirobe kills him. Yajirobe returns to find the master in his room being attended to by Mark. They all talk, and Elijah says that the time of the samurai is over. Yajirobe has far surpassed him, even if he is sad that it wasn’t Brian who won. Yajirobe then departs from the place and goes to his prairie. Must be sure to make mention of him meeting Goku in this part.
Chapter 7 Outline: Yajirobe decides to go into the 23rd Martial Arts Tournament and begins training by himself. He is pestered by Tien and Chiaotzu’s training so decides to leave the lookout, going back to the Academy to find his master and train there. While doing so, Yamcha tails him. They end up finding the Academy, but it is abandoned. They go into town after some fighting and mutual pestering. This is where Yamcha gets the scars on his face. There are posters of Mark all over the place. They see him fighting in a local street, but Yajirobe’s honor prevents him from fighting. While in the market, he finds a mask for sale for 3 zeni and buys it.
Next would come the writing. As previously mentioned, I would write the outlines right after finishing the chapter before them. But then, it was often weeks, even months, before I sat down to write the actual story. Each chapter was very long, even from the beginning. Each chapter was usually around 8000 words, but chapter 1 was 6000 and chapter 7 was 4000. For chapters 1-4 I wrote them at once. Meaning, I sat down, and bam wrote all 8000 words of each of them. After that, I didn't do that anymore, and for the last three chapters, I would write bits and pieces, adding on, and eventually doing a read-over to make sure it was okay. After writing each one, I made sure to do several read-throughs, so as to not have to come back later and change things. Then they would get posted, being posted in half-chapters on fanfiction.net instead of the full chapters. And that was it. After the chapters were done, they were posted and I transferred them onto a word document housing all written chapters, saving the outlines too. Originally, I wrote in calibri without proper spacing, which was a huge hassle to post on the wiki, as I had to manually space between each paragraph before posting. I changed over to Times New Roman with single spacing (0 point before and after) so I didn't have to do it for the last chapter. That was a little too late, though.
One last thing I want to note is that during the writing of Spindlerun, I teased two new stories of mine. These turned out to be The Last Saiyan and His Majesty's Pet. I am doing this commentary about a year and three months past my completion of Spindlerun. I have still not completed either story. As of writing this commentary, TLS has only 10/40 chapters done, and HMP is not even close to being started. I just want to mention that.
Chapter 1: Faux Pas
In a room in a shop there stood a boy. Not a nasty, disgusting, foul room, filled with moldy breads and dripping grease, nor yet a stiff, spurious, empty room with nothing in it to order or to eat: it was a butcher store, and that meant, simply, meat. Ergo meat, as it hung by loin, bone, and gaping carcass flaunted its impressionable allure over the boy.
In his pockets lay three zeni. They were all he had. With a quick jerk of the knee, followed by a supplanted heel, he moved from the door to the register. So hastily had he done so that the butcher could hardly have looked up before the boy reached him.
The man was a commoner. He had tattered, shabby lines of grey running down his face like many little streams flowing out of an overbearing river. That was not to say his work was as crude as he. Actually, as the boy watched, the man’s hands moved with deft precision over the flank steak he was currently cutting. It all looked juicy sweet.
“What’ll ya have?” said the butcher, with his eyes lowered.
“However much this gets me,” replied the boy. He showed the man his three prized zeni in his outstretched palm.
“That all ya got?”
“Yeah, how much does it get me?”
The man paused, wiping his knife on his belly, “For that much, nothin’. I ain’t gonna give away my meat, boy,” he scratched his chin, “I’ve seenya ‘n here afore, kid. Always begging, never have the money… nothin’s changing. Yar not gittin’ anything from me; no sir. Try next door. They’ll have the slop for ya.” He laughed and continued cutting.
“Come on…” pleaded the boy.
“Nah! I’m closin’ up shop anyhow. Damned Red Ribbon Army…”
“What are you talking about?” asked the boy.
The man spat (far, far away from his work station) “Red Ribbon Army. Ya heard? They’re comin’ to town. Gonna set up shop for some ‘portant mission. Ha! If I stay open, they’ll clear me out for sure. Bunch of looters and swine if ya ask me!”
“Hey, if you’re closing up, you can give me some of that food before you go. I’m starving!” insisted the boy.
“No way. Ya pay, or ya go away,” said the man, brandishing his knife. “That’s my motto. And I’m sticking to it. Git out!”
The compelling argument of a knife in his face convinced the boy to leave. Upon returning outside, he noticed what he had not noticed before. In his prior rashness, the boy had not seen nor heard nor smelt the prevailing business of his fellow townies. Now he saw them and they were wretched. Not as he could dare to be – the boy was dirty and plain from years of hopeless misfortune on his ancestor’s part. But these people, they stood around him as the possessions of their clerisy dictated. As he could guess, they had thrown themselves into the wind, so to speak, into exodus from the crucible of Red Ribbon Army. It was only natural they looked so unfit for their journey.
Of course, the boy knew of the Red Ribbon Army. Everyone knew of the Red Ribbon Army. At best, they could be described as vaguely lawful vigilantes. At worst, they were a relentless terror. Their power and scope, by mass and money, was second to none. Not even the King’s Guard could stand up to them. They were ruthless and unsparing in their quests (whatever they may be, the boy knew of not), never stopping until completed. Coming to Orange Star City, of all places, was unexpected. It was thoroughly frightening.
Notwithstanding the grim news, the boy plodded forward into the crowd in an attempt to get back home. As he did so, a particularly jubilant man in a bright green sweater came running to him. This contrast from the lines of men and women, solemnly fleeing, was quite exceptional. And when he reached the boy, the smile on his face rose threefold.
“Here you are, my good sir!” he said in a manner that could be likened to a party balloon exploding.
This greeting was met with a flurry of papers thrown into the boy’s face, causing the poor boy to topple over. Seeing his work to be fulfilled, the jubilant man skipped away, readying another handful of papers for another unsuspecting traveler. The boy swore under his breath as he tried to stand back up. It was times like these that made him remember why he usually used the back-streets instead of going out into crowds. Tearing the papers off of him, he saw them to be mostly advertisements or banners (many proclaiming as to why the boy would, indeed, be going straight to Hell). O mercy, he had none.
The boy balled up several papers and threw the bunch at the skipping man ahead of him. Accurate as it was, the ball only managed to reach the nape of the man’s neck. Yet so surprised to this insidious attack was he that the man turned backward, over the curb, tripped over his feet and fell down; his hands outstretched up in the air, along with a confetti of his recently handled papers. An exaggerated cry befell the street, like the long drawn out howl of a baby T-rex, as the man became acutely aware of his twisted ankle. Greatly, this clamour yielded the perfect moment for the boy to stand up and sneak away from this hypocrite opportunist.
Around a brick wall went the boy, tarrying over nothing and nothing at all. More flyers, more pamphlets, more posters fell from his hair and clothes as he ran. As to how there got to be so many on him, he could scarcely tell. Once he was out of sight, he stopped himself to get the rest of them out.
The boy sat down, thinking over what he had learned today. People in this city were annoying, that was for sure. Also, the Red Ribbon Army was coming; he had no plan for them at all. There was panoptic chaos in the streets. The butcher shop, more beloved and delightfully savory than anything else he knew, was closing up. In fact, he was sure most of the shops would close up. He would be out of food.
Verily, the boy was a street urchin. A ragged, unkempt hooligan, who lived off of soup kitchens and the paltry donations of a few feel-gooders in high society. He was not overtly salubrious. The “slop”, as the butcher had described it, was not bad, he thought. He could live on it forever. That wasn’t to say he did not prefer snooping in the dumpsters behind the butcher shop for a few tasty morsels. But now it was all, all gone. He couldn’t stay like this now!
The boy pulled yet another unwanted paper off his hair. Before he could toss it away, however, he noticed the writing on it. Now it is important that I tell you what exactly the boy saw. For he paid no notice to the title, the description, or the promises spoken of in dull red print. He did not so much as see the picture of a sword splayed across the background. No, this boy saw only one thing: “Meals Provided”. To say it took more than that for him to go there, to say he had nobler intentions of self-betterment is just false. There is no mystery or twist of fate in the start of this boy’s adventure. He was simply hungry.
Yarely did the boy happen upon the gate of his destination. It was laid bare, which gave him chance to creep in. Inside the capacious space was a host of children. Many were his age, and some were older teenagers. There were a few that looked younger, around ten or eleven, but the boy was unsure. Nevertheless, no one noticed him as he entered.
The address on the poster had led outside the city. Specifically, this place was situated three miles down a dirt path from the west entrance. As he walked down the road, the boy had glimpsed at, on each side, a collection of grape and olive orchards. The illusion of wealth that emanated from these trees gave him considerable hope. He reckoned, as reckoners often do, his meals provided would be as bountiful as they would be sumptuous.
Here he was waiting in the back, when a stout woman entered at the front. Her large figure was enshrouded in many long robes. She greeted herself as Kumo quickly, and then barked at the congregation to get in a line. They did so. Then, the woman brought in helpers, sycophantic little creatures who went from child to child, asking and scribbling down each name. The boy was near the end of the line, so he got a good sight of how things went before they reached him. When they did, they tugged his shirt with ravenous appeal. Embarrassed to say it too loudly, he made a point to speak his name to them and only them.
“Yajirobe,” he said, in half a breath.
Now Kumo, line leader, began their procession anon. Purposefully vague in her intention (Yajirobe did not blame himself for not reading the handout), she took them through the courtyard, past the fountain and walls of factitious flowers, into a room. The room was not a room at all for there was no roof and the floor was all grass. Once everybody was inside, the doors were shut; Kumo stood before them. Examining the new room, the children, who had been so properly quiet earlier, moved about anxiously.
“I’m not going to pretend this’ll be easy. If any of you want to leave right now, leave. The Daimyo and I won’t have patience for weakness and most of you will fail anyway. Since we don’t know how many of you are worthy just yet, we will weed out the weak.”
“Does that mean we need to be expert gardeners?” a boy to the immediate right of Yajirobe yelled out.
No one laughed.
Kumo gave no help the stillness as she stared at the boy with unbending focus, “No. It means all of you are going to mimic me,” Kumo lay her arms out in a half-slump in front of her torso. She placed her left leg in front of the right and squatted slightly. Once in position, she waited until every child assumed the position. When they had done so satisfactorily (and those needing correction were corrected), Kumo stood back up.
“Hold that position until I return. Anyone who breaks it must leave at once,” she said, swiftly, before turning around and walking out.
Yajirobe was not conscious of the purpose of this test. He had not bothered to read about where he was. Regardless, he found the stance barely strenuous, if but for the promise of good food. His motivation was not shared by many others.
Their disquiet rose steadily for five minutes. By the sixth, nearly everyone was trembling. And by the eighth, they began, at last, dropping. At first it was two, and then three, and then fifteen and twenty-five. Astounded by their failing of this simple test, Yajirobe could only think to himself there would be more food for him.
Yajirobe perceived, in sudden thought, the boy who had made the joke beforehand. He was a small, scrawny boy with dirty blonde hair. And he just so happened to be next to Yajirobe.
Yajirobe ignored him.
“Hey, hi!” he said, trying again.
“I’m Brian! Your name is Yajirobe, right?” he laughed.
How did he know that? Yajirobe had been very quiet when he told the helpers.
“Well, I heard you tell the servants that,” he said. “That is your name, right?”
There was no going back now, unfortunately. This Brian must have exceptional hearing. It was no use hiding from him anymore. Yajirobe nodded, answering the question.
Yajirobe spoke, “So what?”
“So…” began Brian, “You look like you’re gonna go through to the next round. I thought I should say hi.”
Yajirobe grunted something fierce. It was enough to make Brian back off, giving him peace again. Not so lucky were others; up ahead, several more boys faltered. There were now thirteen left. Brian celebrated this time by talking to another boy to his right.
Unsought, but unavoidable, Yajirobe learned this boy’s name too; Harotu. He and Brian discussed how they had trained for this… how they had prepared for this. To that, Yajirobe thought about where could he be? They had each put hours, days, weeks into coming here. He had not. The only exercise Yajirobe partook in was when he’d look for food out on the street. He’d spend a few hours standing around or dumpster diving or stealthily stealing steaks; the street had made it necessity. Otherwise, he was content to being lazy.
Trying to ignore them fully, Yajirobe looked to his left, and spied a statue. It was of a melancholy man, tall, with long dark hair. He wore robes like Kumo, but they were more ornate, with little strings of gold lining the borders. He had a sword on his side as well. He reminded Yajirobe of some paracosmic super hero – one of those guys at the centre of a good fairy tale. It briefly made Yajirobe think back to when he had last read one, but he could not remember when that was.
The test now becoming decidedly prolix and with growling rising in his stomach, Yajirobe stayed his shaking arms. The back of his neck was soaked with sweat, while his knees ground together in the utmost pain. Comparing his plight to that of Brian and the others… well, they were talking rambunctiously, as if this was nothing. Any semblance of Yajirobe’s composure was now lost. He would have none of it. None of it at all!
“Shut up!” he shouted at Brian. “Just shut up until she comes back.”
Brian gave no reply; he need not to. For Kumo was already on fast approach before them, her figure swept into their sights like a beckoning wind on high noon.
“You are done,” she said, coldly. She observed the thirteen boys with a long nose and a haughty stare. She was much, much taller than Yajirobe, and larger too. Yet her presence gave him no clear symbolic meaning to the power of her authority. She clapped her hands together, “Now for the real test.”
“Another test? You can’t be serious!” said the boy Yajirobe knew to be Harotu.
“Be quiet. Backtalk again and you will be thrown out of the Academy,” she said. “The Daimyo has requested all who remain after the preliminary would take part in a brief reconnaissance expedition. As I speak, the Red Ribbon Army is marching into Orange Star City. Your job is to intercept them and steal the hat of the Commander General. Bring it back to me, and the Daimyo will agree to train you as his newest samurai students.”
Either too scared to speak for fear of being thrown out, or too dumbfounded by the monumental task set in front of them, nobody responded.
Kumo jump-started the conversation, “Get going. Do not make us wait all night.”
“I’m not doing it.”
“We’re going to be killed.”
“I’m not attacking a bunch of armed men…”
Seven boys stood staunch and opposed.
Yajirobe had, as the others talked and decided, listened. His eyes remained locked on the statue of the great warrior. Kumo had said they would be trained as samurai. This man, this statue before him was a samurai. Then, he became instinctive, realizing his desirous tendencies were misplaced. As they were, an ominous variance formed in his mind. He wanted to be that man standing there, not some street rat begging for food in the gutters. If he could be like this man, actually making something of himself, what more could he want? He had always been pitied, but never respected. Yajirobe thought, yes, he wanted to be like that statue. He wanted to have people look up to him. He wanted to have some presence outside of the slums.
He glanced back at the host. Seven had left, abandoning the proposition, grimacing at their failure. There was him and Brian and Harotu. There were three other students whose lives and names will never be delved into because they cannot possibly be important. They would be his only company on the treacherous errand. He would stay with them, to whatever end. He looked back to Kumo and the others. Though he dare not speak it, he promised to himself to have that hat by night’s end. Yajirobe had, at this crucial point, made a goal for himself for the first time in his life.
General Blue was in a good mood. His army was in their best uniforms. The cyaneous sky above, riddled with pockets of white, was shining down favorable. It was warm out, in the best of ways; not too hot, not too cold. The atmosphere was perfect for his entrance. He could imagine it now: walking into the city, the sun beaming brightly down on him and his men, the vast crowds of peoples adorning the streets, cheering him on; their hope and faith in him being absolute, chanting his name… he grinned. Luck was on his side that Blue could have this day his way.
“Dark! Prepare my capsule. I think it’s time we moved in. I don’t want our client to wait too long for us.”
“Uh, which capsule, General?”
“Imbecile!” Blue screeched. “Don’t tell me you forgot my change of clothes!”
“Oh, no General, I have it right here,” said Dark, clumsily fumbling for it in his jacket. “Here it is sir. Still sealed and fresh.”
Blue snatched up the capsule out of the dimwitted Captain’s hand. His mission was a merc operation, meaning that he was conscripted by a third party to fulfill a task. The price was sizable; the despotic Supreme Commander Red, leader over the Red Ribbon Army, had OK’d the operation solely because of the revenue it would generate. Their client was obviously wealthy, Blue knew. That was his half reason in dressing so well. He would show the client, even the city, that the Red Ribbon Army must be respected, admired, as well as feared.
He popped open the capsule, and changed quickly into a dark, decorated uniform. His vainglorious visage was second to none on this earth. It would be welcomed by all. So with a quick stance, followed by a raised hand, General Blue signaled his men into formation; thereupon, Blue marched the grievous army into Orange Star City.
He was only fourteen years old. The boy, Yajirobe was just that – a boy. When he was little, he lived in a Collective, which is a respectable name for a hideous idea. The fundamental state of it was that a group of children, mostly sons of vagabonds (not kings), would live in a large house with a common overseer. The title of overseer was a generous one, Yajirobe had thought, because he had never been taught any form of discipline by his. In the years after, he had run away and lived off the street. Mostly, he would stay in empty apartments, scrounging for food during the night. He had made his living off hapless circumstance, letting him live but not grow.
With Brian, the annoying one, and Harotu, the one the annoying one spoke with, and the other nameless beings, Yajirobe ran down the road from the whence he came. So full of exuberance was Yajirobe that he forgot the severe reality of his assignment. The others were on a high as well, for no one offered up a means to get the hat.
They arrived at the west gate an hour later. As expected, it was empty; by this time, most of those who wished to leave had left. Onward they went into the city and they found it just as quiet. Truthfully, it was not a ghost town. About half the population was already to the countryside; by advanced calculations, that left the other half in the town. Quite a few shops remained open, as did the government, but there were no bystanders on the street. Those who remained were in their homes, carefully keeping to themselves.
Yajirobe knew these streets, and he directed the others towards the city square, where the Red Ribbon Army would surely be. But the square was empty too, as they soon learned. Yajirobe had failed to take into account the vast amount of preparatory time Blue needed to make himself beautiful. As it were, the Army was just now marching into opposite gate.
The boys walked down the sidewalk, lazily drifting from one side to the other, directionless and pondering what to do. No one said much, as there was not much to say. Yajirobe was, to himself, thinking of a plan to jump out of a window onto the General, when it happened: the noise of them approaching. Coming from the cobbled streets ahead, a sound of methodical footsteps, rigidly fixed in accordance with one another was becoming louder and louder.
The six boys ducked under a gazebo. They had only moments now. The matter at hand, figuring out a strategy, seemed as imperative as it was discursive. No one had any idea what to do. One boy (let’s call him Anders) thought it would be a lovely course of action to simply ask the General for his hat. Yajirobe thought that was a terrible; just terrible. It would get them shot, more likely. Yet before he could dare argue his way, Brian spoke, describing an idea he had thought up all his own.
“Look, I can see Mr. Parroda’s house from here!” said Brian
Why does that matter?” asked Harotu, sharply.
“He’s a really famous man. My mom knew him, and we’d go over his house sometimes…”
“Get to the point,” Yajirobe grunted.
“Well, he has this orchard of Jabillos… see it there?” Brian pointed off at a tall yellow house and its grand accompaniment, “We could use a couple of those to distract the army guys and knock the general’s hat off. Then someone just has to run in and grab it before they notice what’s going on.”
It was collectively, near simultaneously that everyone sans Anders asked “What’s a Jabillo?”
Brian’s eyes were sparkling as he explained himself, “Oh, you don’t know what a Jabillo is? I guess that makes sense. They are rather exotic. The trees aren’t all that important, but the fruit on them is. You see, it’s explosive! See, when I was little, I’d play out there with my brother. Sometimes we’d get into the fruit, and well… they’re pretty nasty. The fruit explodes like a grenade. I cut my hands up from them going off. If we throw some of those at the army, they blow up, and it will knock off his hat… not to mention cause a bunch of confusion.”
It was absurd, to say the least. But it was also fortuitous inasmuch that, if what Brian said was true, this would work. Quickly, it was decided upon, since no other plan could be thought up in its stead. Brian gathered the nameless children and made a roadie-run beeline to the orchard. Hopping the fence, they had no trouble sneaking in and grabbing several handfuls of the fruit. Just Harotu and Yajirobe, who were both city boys, were left on the other side. Theirs would be the more difficult task; they would be executing the actual act. Needless to say, it was exactly now that the Army’s head marched onto the street.
Brian was quick enough, and once he armed his fellows, they lined up behind a set of buildings, using a back alley as cover. They hid in the shadows until the blue eyed man at the helm of the troop came into perfect view. At his sight, Brian let out a holler and threw the fruit. The others followed him. What was once quiet now erupted into pandemonium; the boys yelling and throwing, and the army reacting as if under attack. With the first fruits thrown, Yajirobe and Harotu hesitated. They remained unsure of the idea’s practicality.
To say the Jabillo’s fruit exploded was generous. Indeed, the pumpkin-esque little balls barely made a sound, let alone a distraction. Moreover, the shrapnel that came out – if it could even be called that – was flimsy. It did barely anything to the proceeding men, save ignite their anger.
The man at the helm mentioned before, General Blue, was outright offended by this classless act. With an outcry of horror, lest his best uniform be damaged, he dodged aside and drew his pistol. Brian and the other boys flung themselves away, distraught and broken from the failure of their deed. But Blue was merciless. His mood had turned foul moments before upon learning that no one was to greet him – no lines of people waiting to see him enter the city. There was only this group of boys, throwing fruit at him. Well, he wasn’t the Commander General of the Red Ribbon Army for nothing! He would show them who they were dealing with.
He fired eight shots, emptying his clip. Brian and the others backed themselves into a nearby building, running inside as fast they could. Mustering his composure, Blue reloaded, then holstered his pistol and righted himself. He ordered the grunts, by proxy of Captain Dark, to destroy the building. No use getting personally involved. The captain happily obliged, readying his heavy weapons division.
Yajirobe and Harotu had not moved once. Their mission was not complete, yet, but their lives were in great peril; they could be ended at any second. It was not altogether enticing to run out there just to get their heads blown off. As the line of men formed themselves in front of the building, Yajirobe saw a curious opportunity. Blue stood in front of them, a way off from the other soldiers too. If he could run out and snatch the hat off the General’s head, he would win. Well, all of them would win.
Then, the company fired. In the ensuing explosion, wrought by flame and glass, Yajirobe saw someone spiral out from it. It was Brian. He had, as the troops assumed their stead beleaguering the poor house, jumped from a window behind and ran about the troop. As he ran out, the explosion going off just behind him, he threw his last of the Jabillo fruit at Blue. Blue was too entranced by the totality of his destruction to notice the boy’s attack. Just as Brian was blown away, flung onto the ground, the fruit made contact with Blue. As it is with all these types of things, and this being such a little thing regardless, Blue became livid. No one should touch him. No one should be so uncivilized as to throw fruit at him. Aimless but resolute, he emptied another magazine toward the boy, reprimanding the uncouth strike. As the general moved forward, Yajirobe saw his hat on the ground, clearly. It had been knocked off by the fruit.
The boy had built up a large reserve of power that he was barely accustomed to. Foraging and living off of desolate places had made him strong and sturdy. Though he was hopelessly chubby as well, Yajirobe was surprisingly fast and agile. With all his hardihood, he broke from his hiding place, running out into the open. The explosion was the focal point for all of them. Not one soldier noticed him as he ran out, as he grabbed the hat, nor as he retreated back to Harotu (who had, all this time, simply played with his pocket lighter).
Thereupon, Blue came forth to Brian. His pistol held within it three shots left. Each and every one to be arbitrarily shot at the General’s will. Brian, who lay helplessly in the ash of destruction could do naught but plead. Scarcely did his words fall upon Blue’s ears. Blue, as he remained desirous of malcontent, forced his shots out, perforating the ground around the boy; though they missed, due to his overbearing agitation. As far as Blue knew, gentlemen were real men. You don’t mess with real men. He would have this boy’s life.
Unaccounted for were the others. Notably among them was Harotu. Not a farthing’s worth had Blue given to the others, as they appeared wayward and gone. Nay, in here they were not.
Harotu appeared in a crescent roll, forcing himself onto Blue. He was a small, bony boy. His fingers were so long they almost seemed they should fall off by no more than the coaxing of a soft wind. His small stature, however, gave him the advantage over Blue. Blue was no useless pretty-boy. Well learned in hand-to-hand combat was he. But Harotu was unaccounted for. He was unexpected in this party. Blue had taken his shots at Brian and missed. With no fear of the weapon, Harotu had scrambled forward and tackled the general.
It was like a spider wraps its prey. Harotu climbed about Blue with expert dexterity, totally un-countered. Though Blue roared out in sudden awareness, it was too late. Harotu took his lighter and opened it in Blue’s face. It was not a large lighter, nor a very powerful one, yet the effects of it were devastating to Blue. For, you see, Blue had this wild idea his face was perfect. No harm should or could come to it. After all, who dares tarnish great art?
Harotu knew this not. His lighter remained open for only a moment before Blue could writhe away from it. The light and heat blinded Blue momentarily, so he fell backward. His eyebrows were singed too; a cruel end to his loyal pair. Con mucho gusto Harotu, smiling at Blue’s screams, grabbed Brian and ran out of there. Yajirobe and the others would follow soon, cautious to avoid the army’s position. Yajirobe himself backed outward, hopping down a flight of stairs, then slinked out, below the smoke, back to the square. When he arrived, the five others were there. He displayed to them a proudly kempt item. The black hat of General Blue.
Yajirobe was as satisfied as he had ever been. What he had just done, with the (small) help of the others was nothing short of exemplary. Once again, his train of thought moved to the statue of the man; but this time it was not in poor manner. He was one step closer to becoming like it. He had taken on a fully equipped army, with nothing but his wits and a collection of fruit; he was sure the statue could have done no better.
Yajirobe got up with the others and made his way back to Kumo’s lair.
Blue, on the other hand, did not get up. He was still on the ground, at the burning house. He screamed out curses. He flung debris at any man who drew near to him. It went on like that into the night, so that his legion did not get properly set up before the new day.
Later accounts from his soldiers confirmed that Blue cried, copiously. There were over forty men who swore to this, by the last count. However, Blue himself denied such allegations passionately, as they would have not only undermined his authority, but shown him to be a sissy. He was beloved by his troops, he recollected. They saw him as a great leader. More relevantly, though, real men don’t cry. And as I’ve already made mention beforehand, Blue fancied himself a real man.
Kumo showed no emotion in her face when they returned. No congratulations, no reprimands; the mission was complete and that was that. No matter the improbability, the recklessness that it entailed. The city still burned as they gathered around her. Yajirobe handed her the hat. She took it carefully, examining it for authenticity. Once satisfied, she nodded and bid them off, calling her many servants to whisk them away to bed. After they were gone, she closed the gate behind her. She held General Blue’s hat in her hand, as she returned.
“Which one brought it?” asked a voice, out of the darkness.
“It was the one, Yajirobe, Daimyo,” Kumo replied.
“Yajirobe… that’s a city name,” the voice said.
Kumo nodded. “Most of them are.”
The statue that inspired Yajirobe earlier now moved. It jumped off its pedestal and onto the cooling grass.
“I wasn’t. You know I came from out here. The master let me in,” said the statue; the Daimyo.
“You were the first the master allowed like that.”
“I would like the names and pictures of all six. You will give them to me now,” said the Daimyo, awkwardly, ending the conversation.
“Of course,” replied Kumo. She bowed, dropped the hat, and then exited.
The Daimyo stayed a while under the moon. He stood still, as he had in his impression of a statue. Then, with no warning, he drew his sword. It was an elegant, sleek katana, firmly bound. He moved with it not as if it was an item that he held, but as if it was part of him. So fluid was it, that if a watcher, some onlooker were observing this, they would have been unknowing to him holding it, save for the reflection of the steel off the moon.
With legerdemain akin to that of an accomplished card sharp, he flicked the hat up with the tip of his sword, grasping around it with his quick fingers. He balled it up in his hand, tucking it into his robes, sheathed his katana, and walked out.
Kumo had left the itinerary waiting on his door. On it, he read out the names. There was Yajirobe, of course. He scanned it over. They were all city names, which was to be expected. His own class and those afterwards had all been from the city. He looked down the list. Harotu, Anders… wait. There it was. He saw the final name; Brian.
Just like him, this was a country boy.
The Daimyo tore the note off his door and pocketed it. He went into his room, which was a humble home of yore. He had a simple training mat, his small box of clothes, a desk (with which he did lots of business) and a bookshelf, filled to the brim. Most of the books were written by his late master, though he had several others. They were, of course, treasured by him greatly. But ignoring all of them, he walked forward and sat down on his mat.
Then, as soon as he had entered, he decided to get up again. Walking quickly, he exited his room and moved down the hall. He made his way to the recruits’ resting area. It was empty. Well, that was to be expected, he thought. They had put themselves through a good days work. Finding them inside the dormitories, he confirmed they were asleep. There were six sets of bunk beds, so that every child had their own. Most lay sleeping on the bottom bunks, but a small boy in a white shirt, with dirty blonde hair was on a top bunk. He was a total rebel. The Daimyo looked them all over, especially that boy, before leaving. He wondered to himself which one could be Yajirobe, and which one could be Brian.
He cracked his knuckles. Tomorrow, he would train them directly. He had not intended to do so, this soon, but the events dictated his response. It could not wait, he was sure. Truthfully, he had not even expected them to get the hat. In his mind, he had worked out two possible scenarios – one where the boys simply refused, but refused to leave, and one where they would bring back a false hat. Neither had happened.
The Daimyo knew the hat he had in his pocket was the real one. He had seen General Blue in person before. It was extraordinary that they had got it from him. This group showed more promise than any before him. He had to see it with his own eyes. Tomorrow.
As I cannot make it my perfectly accurate prediction, I should make it my humble assumption that this day was the beginning of the second week of Naigo, Lord of Hunger’s, training in the art of Ki control.
Today was January fourteenth, in the Age seven hundred forty-nine.
- Faux Pas chapter name origin - a reference to the boys breaking protocol by stealing Blue's hat. It's a bit sarcastic, because what they did was certainly more serious than a simple faux pas.
- The opening paragraph is a complete reference to the opening paragraph of The Hobbit. I modeled every sentence after that entire paragraph because it's one of my favorite books ever, and one of my favorite paragraphs within the book. I have the entire paragraph memorized, actually.
- One plot point I knew from the beginning was that I was going to open and close with the three zeni. In the beginning of the story, Yajirobe cannot purchase anything with such little money. He carries the zeni with him throughout the story and the last scene of the last chapter is about how he spends them. So that's a small current that remains throughout the story, started here in the very first scene.
- The butcher's dialogue was influenced by various commoners in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
- I introduce Orange Star City rather quietly in this chapter. This is practically an easter egg. Orange Star City is later named Satan City, after Mr. Satan. So by casually bringing up the name of the city, I foreshadow Mr. Satan's presence in the story.
- The Red Ribbon Army was never a governmental army. It was always a private army. That was something that I found weird. Why did King Furry allow someone to just create an army that could mock his own? I explore that in the text, eventually coming to the conclusion that it was due to Commander Red simply having more money than Furry.
- The man in the green sweater was never supposed to be anyone important. At least, not in the first draft. As I wrote later chapters, I came back to mentioning that this man was indeed Daniel, Mr. Satan's older brother. I find it funny how his energy is so different than that of the people around him. It really makes him stand out - just like he stands out later in the story. He's not like the rest of the people in the city.
- The mention of the back-streets is a reference to "All Star" by Smash Mouth.
- The stuff about advertisements telling Yajirobe he was going to hell was something I saw in real life. There were these posters people were passing around showing all the things I (and everyone else) has done to warrant a trip down under.
- The howl the man cries out after falling is likened to that of a baby T-rex. I wanted his cry to sound like the cry of the baby T-rex in Jurassic Park 2, thus amplifying the comedy of that section even more.
- Hypocrite opportunist is a reference to "A Punchup At A Wedding" by Radiohead.
- I don't ever remember using the word "panoptic".
- The use of the phrase "street urchin" is a reference to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This was particularly a reference to the playable character, "Mission Vao".
- Daniel was betting that Yajirobe would see the Samurai School pamphlet. He had been watching Yajirobe, and knew he was a slave to his hunger. I'm betting he created the pamphlet, too, and put the "Meals Provided" in big letters on purpose.
- Kumo mentions that the leader is a Daimyo. I specifically chose this, because I didn't want a Shogun. I wanted the leader of the samurai to be a second-generation one, one who lost his master recently. Much like how Vegeta always retains the title of prince, even after he technically becomes king, Elijah keeps his title of Daimyo and does not take the mantle of the Shogun. This is something that Makare wants to take, though. He wants to be a Shogun so bad, so bad.
- The guy who made a joke which no one laughed at is a reference to something I was witness to. One the first day of one of my math classes, someone did just that. I thought it was hilarious how no one laughed, so I had to use it here.
- "Yajirobe grunted something fierce." is a line that still gets me to this day.
- I will get into this more in later chapters, but Yajirobe, Brian, and Harotu were originally based on Destructivedisk, KidVegeta, and Hyper Zergling respectively. This didnt' last long, and there are only a few semblances of such an idea remaining in the story. But the fact that Harotu is even a character in the story was originally due to our "trinity". Without that, I don't think he would have existed on any level in Spindlerun.
- I originally came up with the idea that only Yajirobe, Brian, and Harotu would get far into the training. I had 13 students pass to give me some room to get rid of characters in the coming chapters.
- Of course, seven of them quit almost immediately, not wanting to steal General Blue's hat. That leaves six, only three of which matter.
- I've always felt like with Yajirobe, there was something deep inside him that wanted him to be seen as a hero, a role model. A bit of that comes up in this chapter. Obviously, Yajirobe, in canon, trained to become a samurai. He's a lazy man, yes, but he does have skill, and something drove him. While I do have food as a major driving force in him even going to the samurai school, he stays there because he sees what he becomes. And he desperately wants to be something more than a street urchin. I think this is something that everyone goes through at one point or another, with suddenly being overcome by a sudden, prideful emotion. Sure, many of us, like Yajirobe, eventually succumb to laziness, but it doesn't mean that feeling wasn't there.
- "There was him and Brian and Harotu. There were three other students whose lives and names will never be delved into because they cannot possibly be important." - While I do eventually name Anders, I still keep the other two nameless, and all three are pretty meaningless to the story. I really wanted to make this a point because it's difficult to name characters. It's even more difficult to give them really good names. Why waste time on characters who don't matter?
- "He would stay with them, to whatever end." - that is a reference to a conversation between Gamling and King Theoden in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
- Blue is so funny to me because he thinks that the crowds will adorn the street and sing him praises as he enters. Instead, they are fleeing. It shows how detached from reality he is.
- So General Blue is entering the city to fulfill some unknown task. Because of this, Yajirobe was forced to go to the samurai school to enter and be provided with food. Yet, to get into the samurai school, he must first return back to the city and steal the hat of General Blue. The thing I love about this is that it not only weaves everything together, but allows me to introduce and include General Blue in the story in a way that is neither forced nor confusing.
- The thing about vagabonds and kings is a reference to "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" by Elton John.
- Again, Mr. Satan's presence is foreshadowed in this chapter. Brian mentions seeing Mr. Parroda's house. That is Daniel's and Mark's last name. Of course, when I wrote this, I didn't intend that, as I didn't even create Daniel until working on the next chapter.
- The thing about Jabillos was something I had learned myself. I had been researching into trees at the time, and had come across one that had explosive-like fruit. I used it mainly because the fruit would offer up a distraction. I also haven't heard of anyone else using a Jabillo tree in their stories before, let alone in a critical part of the plot.
- The use of roadie-run is a nod to the Gears of War franchise.
- Brian's plan shows how oblivious he is to the real world. He didn't seem to comprehend that throwing fruit at a bunch of armed soldiers may get them to start shooting at him.
- I specifically looked up German Officer pistols to see how many rounds they could fire. I eventually settled on one that had an 8 round magazine. This was the P38.
- The reference to Harotu's pocket lighter is the first foreshadowing of Harotu's pyromaniac tendencies. I mean, it's just a passing mention, but his lighter (and his explosives) becomes extremely essential to the story later on. That's one of my favorite things about Spindlerun. I was able to mention so many things in passing that later became very important. It made the story extremely sophisticated, in my opinion.
- I believe General Blue once referred to his face as great art in canon, which is why I mention it here.
- I think it's very cool that the statue was actually the Daimyo. He literally inspired Yajirobe to stay. As well, he watched them all, and heard all of their conversations, and they never knew.
- I specifically did not mention the Daimyo's name, as by this point, I had thought that "Daniel" would end up being the Daimyo. I'm very glad I never did mention his name, as Daniel was eventually written to be a different character.
- Brian slept on the top bunk because I sleep on the top bunk of my bed. He wears a white shirt and has dirty blonde hair as well. Those are both things based off of me as well.
- The reason for having some people named Daniel and Brian and Elijah, etc, while others are named Yajirobe and Makare and Naigo and Kumo has a specific purpose. Being that Yajirobe is a canon name, and Mark is the canon name for Mr. Satan, I felt the need to use both Japanese and English names, but differentiating them. The Japanese names denote people born in cities. Yajirobe, Harotu, Makare, and Kumo were born and lived in Orange Star City, and Naigo lived in South City. The English names were for people who lived in the countryside outside of the city. Daniel and Mark originally lived on a winery outside of the city, and that was the old home of Elijah before he became Daimyo. Brian, who in the early chapters mentioned knowing Daniel and having dinner with him sometimes, also came from a southern winery out in the countryside.
- The last line was something I would use to both act as a timeline and a last bit of thought for Daniel - originally intended to be the Daimyo. As I've mentioned before, Daniel became Mr. Satan's older brother, and the Daimyo became Elijah. Not to mention, I wanted to use some first person in an otherwise third person story. That was another element to the writing of this story that I would later incorporate more, with entire sections being in first person. But this small bit of first person allowed for each chapter to maintain a certain form.
- The last line is the first mention of Naigo. I think that's a cool introduction to him. All we know is that he's a lord of hunger, and he's training with ki. So in but a line, one of the main characters is introduced by another's thoughts, and he's presented as being quite the fearsome foe.
- Because Naigo was called the Lord of Hunger, this was a reference to Darth Nihilus from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.
- I added the timeline to show that this is the very same year that Dragon Ball starts, just several months before it does. I did my homework. I looked over the canon timeline and saw when and where I could put my story. So I had to put this one just a few months before Dragon Ball began so I could end it after Dragon Ball has started.
Chapter 2: Utopian Ripcord
Makare sat on his rock. He sat on that rock all afternoon. In fact, he had been there since sunrise. That is not to say he was a reclusive, unflinching little bugger – far from it. Makare sat in meditation because he was waiting. Waiting for them to come. The side of the mountain, completely uninhabited, ruggedly opaque, gave no allusion to what exactly Makare could be expecting. But as he sat, a figure appeared without forewarning, crawling out of an unassuming hole in the rocks like a worm out of the mud. As he landed, his heavy boots dusted up the trail, alerting Makare to his presence. The man was lanky, with long unwashed hair. He wore full leather armor, and held a sheathed katana at his side. He made no stoppage before arriving to Makare.
“What are you doing here?” he hissed.
Makare kept his eyes closed, “Just enjoying the day, Naigo.”
The mountain was indeed brobdingnagian, discernible even through the overcast sky. If one were to stand at its base and look up, the peak would not be visible, regardless of the weather. The two were two thousand metres up; indeed, remote enough to converse freely.
“Typical,” the man responded. “You wouldn’t really be doing anything.”
“Any developments from the inside?” Makare asked, moving the conversation in his favor.
Naigo shook his head, “No. The monks are the same.”
“You told me, Naigo. A whole colony of nihilists,” Makare pointed out.
“They’re worse than that. They’re solipsists. I can barely train. They just talk and talk and talk and argue about who is real. I want to slit their throats.”
“Who is real?” asked Makare.
“None of them. The aphorisms they perpetuate are worthless. What am I supposed to do knowing that I am the only person who truly exists? Well, none of them think I’m real. But that gets back into–”
“But you are learning? You must be learning something.”
“At the very least, they know about controlling one’s power,” Naigo smiled. “See, watch.”
Naigo unfolded his hands, snapping them outward in a move overdramatized by purpose. He gritted his teeth and began a series of grunts, growing from small noises, to outright screams. At last, a green ball formed in his palm; ‘twas a severely stretched tear drop. He threw it out like it was a ball, though it flew like no ball. Halfway in its arc, the energy exploded in a dark cloud of smoke. The smoke rose into the air like a plastic festoon uncurling itself in the wind before disintegrating out of sight.
“What is the estimated time for completion? They will need to be at least fifty times that size before we begin,” said Makare.
“A few weeks,” responded Naigo.
“It’s imperative that you learn to master this energy. I would err on the side of safety. If you need a month, I can give you a month. But I can’t wait a year.”
“It won’t take that long. I have nearly gotten it. Controlling is much harder than expanding it.”
Before Makare could speak, before he could so much as blink, a figure dropped from the tree nearest their right. She was a woman, most assuredly; her long blonde hair overbore her slim figure, which the taller, sullen man noted with clear distaste.
She cared naught for Naigo; her purchase was with Makare. Walking past him with an air of bold dissolution, she threw out her finger, pointing away from them, to the city in the distance.
“So, why’d you call me?”
“I need an errand ran. The Daimyo of the Iboinoshishi Samurai School has recently opened his doors to take in new students.”
“Yeah, I’ve got his address right here,” replied the woman, showing him her phone.
“All right. You remember what we talked about…” Makare trailed off, trying to find the correct word, “It’s time to implement that. Find them. Eliminate his precocious little acolytes. And I would not be angry if he were to be taken care of too. I’ll pay extra.”
“No problem,” she retorted. “The brats’ll be gone before ya know it.” She spat, grabbing onto her machine gun hanging from her belt. Makare nodded, giving her full allowance to leave. Naigo and Makare watched her slink out of sight until she was no more than a fleeting image on the edge of their eyes.
Finding his voice, Naigo spoke, “You said nothing of her before.”
“That is Launch. She is our third wheel. The uncouth member of this triumvirate. With her, I will be able to test and exploit dear Master’s troupe.”
“Fine,” said Naigo, dryly. “If you think they would fall to her, then your ignorance is great. I should have no part in this, except as a backup plan?!”
“No, of course not. You and I will lead the assault. Launch is merely a diversion, though I don’t think she quite knows that. She needs not know that.”
Day two started out much the same as any other – only it didn’t. Ere the sun rose, the six remaining children, acolytic pupils of the statue man, awoke and went to breakfast. This was the good life. Perhaps not for the others, but for him, Yajirobe, waking up to have food supplied to him, to not have to go out and beg in the bitter cold streets, to not have to rummage or sneak into garbage cans, was thoroughly relieving.
Once again, the sycophants from yesterday came upon them and ushered them into a quiet room to eat. It was a massive hall, easily one hundred feet tall. Their footsteps rang out in loud echoes over every inch of the room as they entered. And the breakfast was beholden unto them. Rows and rows of it there were, stretched out over every table in eyeshot. Surely they knew of Yajirobe’s appetite. Surely they had taken into account how much he could take in, was his thought. It was not for them; the other five would have to wait. Yajirobe ran forth, pushing them all aside, his stomach growling with insatiable vigor.
And then he tasted it. The sheer fallout that came afterwards was not even from the obvious disappointment of the flavor. Yes, he had overhyped his senses into thinking this would be the greatest, most delectable meal in all of time. No, it was not that. A hollow feeling came up from his gut, as he grappled with this. He had come here for food, nothing else. The inspiration of the statue the day before had worn off (not to mention, the statue was really a man (but Yajirobe knew this not)). The sole impetus of him getting the hat was a distant recollection, not more pronounced now than his appreciation for his fellows. Food was what he was focused on now. He reached out to taste another average bite. Then, Yajirobe found the bacon, and he forgot his troublesome worries.
It was quickly established in Yajirobe’s mind, now that he had food to fill his deficient needs, that Brian spoke with articulate elocution. Harotu, his nearest companion was more bumptious in his speech. Anders spat in disjointed way, which could only be explained by his lack of knowing what to say even as he said it. Nevertheless, the way in which they conversed, in a hobnob sort of way made Yajirobe jealous of them. He could not admit it, nor could he deny it, but he really wanted to be able to talk like them… with better company, of course.
Harotu proudly talked about how he had taken down the great Officer. How, if it were not for him, Brian would be a dead boy. A dead boy! Brian replied with a playful grin, “I distracted him for you. Besides, his gun was empty. It’s not like he coulda done anything.”
“No! He’s a big army guy. He would have put you in a stranglehold. Or used his knife…”
“He had a knife!?” squeaked Anders in the background.
“And then Yajirobe got the hat,” continued Brian. “I saw him get it. He’s really fast. I bet he could have outrun the bullets, dontcha think. Right, Yajirobe?”
Yajirobe was not listening. He was eating bacon. In fact, he had eaten three plates of it; nearly the entire portion allotted to them all. As the candy bar of the meat world, bacon had eluded Yajirobe until this point. This was his first time trying it. He could not stop eating its salty goodness.
“What’s this called?” he asked to everyone, holding up a single piece of the precious bacon. He was careful to keep it close to him, lest some fox-handed thief were to grab at it.
“Bacon,” said Harotu. “How do you not know that? Didn’t your mom ever cook it for you for breakfast?”
Yajirobe’s mom had not. His silence gave up that answer readily enough. In fact, Yajirobe had never known his mother at all. His father had never spoken of her, and he had no early memories of a face or voice or anything to match to a woman. There was also the fact that Yajirobe had grown up homeless. Had he had a mother, bacon would not have been on the menu, regardless.
There were four doors on the far wall. Each clearly superannuated beyond their means (relegated to the backend broom closets, no doubt), Yajirobe saw. Their wooden frames hung in deterioration and splinters of wood had already been felled by years of decay. The tables, the chairs, the floors were no different. This hall was old, but there were no old people in it. Befuddled by this, Yajirobe lost contact with his part in reminiscing with the others. He watched the four doors, when two things occurred simultaneously.
The first was the expected; Harotu, that loud mouth, wanted Yajirobe to back him up. As he had said it: “You were there, you saw me save him!”. Yajirobe had. Yajirobe didn’t care. It was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, but unavoidable to realize that he wouldn’t be leaving Harotu anytime soon. As he remembered the statue, though its influence had dulled upon his hasty mind, and as he remembered his mission, and where he was, Yajirobe knew fully well that he was here to become a Samurai now. He did not like Harotu. He did not like Brian. He did not even know the other three existed. But ignoring them was doing nothing. He had sworn to stand by them, not socialize with them. If he was to make them stop, he would have to take charge.
Before Yajirobe could open his mouth to show his errant authoritarianism, the second occurrence occurred. Across the marble floor, a door opened (second from the left), and in walked a man. No, it was not a man, thought Yajirobe. It was too unworldly in its appearance and mannerisms. As it got closer, however, Yajirobe saw it to be very much alive… but that could not be! This man walking toward him was the statue. The brave and noble statue which had inspired him. How could it be alive?! Yajirobe did not ask the others. Nay, he needn’t. They had gone quiet, their eyes (beady little eyes) tracing the man’s trajectory until he reached them. When he did, he made no attempt at hailing them. He stood with his shoulders slumped, staring with his large black eyes.
“Who are you?” blurted out Yajirobe, so stunned at seeing him. His question echoed thrice before the man answered.
“I am the Daimyo,” he said coolly.
“What’s your name?” asked Brian.
“What’s yours?” he replied in a childish retort.
“Brian,” replied Brian.
It was barely perceptible, but the man changed his manner of cold indifference at once. Turning his body to face Brian, primarily, he spoke, “What do you want?” It was a sort of awkward attempt at conversation that unveiled not only impatience, but clear inability to actually converse.
Brian responded, however, “W-we’re here to get training, sir. From you.”
The man’s eyes wide, his mouth partially agape, there could be no other emotion than astonishment in his being. “Oh. Let’s go.”
The Daimyo spun around and walked out to the door he came from. The six children quickly followed him, Yajirobe snagging a few more pieces of bacon for the trip before trailing behind.
Unlike the first training area, the outside was open land, filled with lush, rolling hills. The left was guarded by a forest, the olive trees Yajirobe knew of. To the right, they were boxed in by the base of a huge mountain. Singularly manifested, with no rocky guards to figure, it hung in lone distortion – like a sore tooth.
The Daimyo led them out to it in a ragged half-line. There were three barrels to their immediate right. That was it. No Kumo, no servants, nothing else. In each barrel were long, wooden sticks. As they got closer, they saw these sticks were clearly molded in the likeness of swords. The Daimyo was the first to get to them. He looked them over before speaking.
“Show me how you fight,” he said. “Go in pairs and duel.”
“Those are just sticks! Anyone can swing one of those around!” shouted Harotu with much temerity.
“Yes. Until you prove yourself to be worthy, that is what you get,” said the Daimyo. He brushed his own katana, in its sheath toward them, “One of these is given only to those who deserve it. Only those who prove themselves to have the skills and honor honed by the Master.”
“Who’s that?” asked Yajirobe.
“It’s me now,” the man answered. “Show me your inherent skill, please,” he said, gesturing to the barrels around. “I would like to see them before we start.”
The six boys shuffled into position upon taking their bokkens. Yajirobe and Anders were paired, as were Harotu and Brian. The Daimyo stood back, watching over them like a person who watches, but Yajirobe felt no intrinsic comfort coming from this man. If he were to be injured, or maimed, there couldn’t be help emanating from this beatnik overseer.
Yajirobe took his wooden sword and circled Anders, pairing his hands off in oblique perspective, with a subtle countenance of composure. While never having handled a sword before, Yajirobe thought it prudent to jab with the point. It was a strategy as intuitive as it was effective, like any other offensive attack would have been. Anders had a different method; and that involved swinging the sword around wildly, like a drunk with a bat in the ratworks of Riften. Needless to say, Ander’s maneuver, wholly unexpected by its cunning brashness, knocked Yajirobe’s bokken clear out of his hands, causing it to sail several feet before spearing itself in the soft grass behind.
Triumphantly, Anders stood over Yajirobe. He swiped his sword across Yajirobe’s face. With a ribald cackle, Anders stood over his defeated, “Ha! Look at that, I beat you! You fat bum! This is what you get for ignoring me yesterday. I told you I was the most skilled out of us all. Now you pay for it!” Yajirobe shook him off, finding it as deplorably unlistenable as some treasonous Lombax lies. But Anders raised his bokken against Yajirobe again, holding his dominance completely. Brian’s and Harotu’s fight continued behind them and it was not unfolding in a far-off manner from this one.
Brian’s condition was no more the better than Yajirobe’s, as his left him thoroughly dominated. Harotu, who was more than a year elder, had gracefully used his bokken to disarm him in a flummox of quick slices. Still, Brian had not given up, instead vaulting himself at Harotu in a futile attempt at overcoming his foe. Nay, Harotu had seen him coming.
It was over in a moment. Harotu sidestepped around his opponent, interchanging positions with him, and pushing him over, forward, onto the grass. Harotu finished him by slamming his bokken into Brian’s calf, cutting it open. Brian let out a whimper as the blood flowed out. Harotu laughed.
“Come on Brian, aren’t you better than that?” he said.
“Ah, you didn’t have to cut me like that. You come on, Harotu!” replied Brian, in torrents on the ground.
“What kind of response is that? You could run at the Red Ribbon Army with nothing but a piece of fruit, but you whine and cry when I hit you with a stick? What’s wrong with you?” said Harotu, laughing.
“Nothing. Get off me, dude.”
“Does it bother you?”
“Yeah, get off!”
Harotu smirked, “Look at whiney Biney. He can’t take a little pain without crying like a baby.”
“Enough!” rang out a voice. It was the Daimyo. Silence immediately fell over the three training groups. Yajirobe and Brian still lay on the ground, perpendicular to their betters. The man waded quietly through them, and began pointing. “You, and you. And you too,” he said, pointing to Harotu, Nameless Child 1, and Brian, “Well done. Step forward.”
Anders, understandably, was vexed as much as he was outraged at his non-inclusion.
“Hey, what gives? I won too.”
“I know,” responded the Daimyo.
“So?! I should be picked too!”
“Yes sir,” said Anders, “I’m easily the best swordsman here. I’ll show you. I’ll even fight you if I have to!”
“I have to accept that. I’m obligated,” he replied.
Anders’ hardihood aside, the Daimyo was not impressed. Lest he be put on a tangent, he would deal with the boy as quickly as possible. He nodded, allowing Anders forward. The boy, his bokken in hand, proudly took stance before the Daimyo. But, his confidence was fugacious at best. He charged the man with in a triple blind unguarded maneuver. The Daimyo read his form without difficulty. He dodged the boy, jumping into the air, back-stepping, even twisting his body in a great unnatural spin to avoid the attack. The man had not even drawn his own defense yet. Anders stopped, looking for some kind of inference in how to land a hit. His gamble, perhaps, was ill-contrived.
The Daimyo took his opportunity and tapped a toe to Anders’ chest. Though it seemed like nothing, Anders let out a voiceless scream, dropped to his knees and fell over, in shock. The Daimyo lowered his leg, and stood over his flock, silently. Anders’ arms covered his rib cage, though he was not making any movement. Blood was dripping off his lips. The Master heightened himself to speak, just as a group of his servants came screaming out, running as fast as their little legs would carry them. They took to Anders, and his lying body, feeling, pressing for signs of life. In hysteria, they brought a stretcher, carried by two muscled trainers. Putting Anders on it (who was, at this time, still silent and still), they rushed out as quickly as they had rushed in. The troop watched him go, and never did any of them see or speak of him again.
“Confidence in one’s ability is a desirable asset. But arrogance is something I will not tolerate. None of you are better than one another. None of you are better than what I expected. Get it out of your minds that any of you are gifted in any way. Because you are not. My training will make you exceptional, but you are not exceptional yet. I need each one of you here. You all provide a necessary part to the completion of our goal. Don’t let your egos block your abilities in my training. Wasting my time and wasting yours will lead us all to ruin.”
The Daimyo lowered himself and walked out, satisfied with his speech.
General Blue clicked open his phone. He was determined to contact his client today. The army, his army, was growing restless. It had been hours since they had taken position in the town square. That had been with little incident. After the group of boys had disgraced and humiliated him, Blue had burned down three blocks of houses in retaliation. By which thought, no one had dared stand up to his tempest. The phone rang twice before being picked up.
“General Blue. I have been waiting for this call.”
“Ah, yes. This is General Blue of the Red Ribbon Army. I have brought the army you requested to Orange Star City. I await your directions.”
“Yes, of course. I have forwarded you a detailed list of what to do. Do not speak of these directions to anyone aside from your commanders. And keep contact with them to a minimum. I desire secrecy in this endeavor.”
“Understood. Is there anything else?”
“Yes. Do not burn or remove the bodies. Leave them where they fall.”
“And who do I thank for requesting the services of the Red Ribbon Army? You must have a name?”
“The payment for your services will be paid fully by me. My name is Daniel, as the receipt will confirm. The transfer will occur when I next get your call, General. Do not call me unless you have completed your task.”
With that, the call was terminated. Blue stood up straight, determined to read out his instructions immediately. He was unfamiliar with such secrecy, especially from a client. There were so few big names left in the world of who had both the money to pay and the power to impress his army. Yet, he had known immediately that whatever it was, it would be highly illegal. That was no concern, Blue assured himself. He had been taught to take on these missions with obdurate professionalism.
As he read the message left for him on the phone, even Blue became slightly unnerved by what he was going to do. But, it was his duty. Commander Red trusted him; Blue would honor that trust. He had ordered genocides before. This one was no different.
General Blue gathered his men with great vivacity. One thing Blue had that no other General could claim to, was the respect, the admiration of his troops. They formed rank for him immediately. With one more chance to showcase his emblematic masculinity, Blue led his men out of the city, toward Igaron Mountain. It was his day again.
The silver barrel, unreflective and stagger-locked, was barely noticeable against the collective backdrop of the city behind. The TC-150 anti-material long rifle was not only the most expensive weapon known to man, but it was by far the primary choice of any elite shock trooper… that is to say, if they could afford it. Lucky for Makare, Launch was quite rich.
She lay on the top of a five story building, unmoving and completely invisible. Indeed, even if a person were to be on the roof with her, they would not have seen her, with her camouflaged and non-reflective gear. She sighted down her scopes, adjusting her trajectory to match the wind speed.
Wind-speed: 15 km/h, SSE.
Bullet Travel Time: 3.0238 seconds.
Distance From Target: 3218 meters, 4% incline.
Launch kept her safety on, however, as her mission was not yet appropriately unfolded. She saw twelve figures standing on the lower level of the Southern Bridge. She clicked in her zoom to verify their appearances. Five children, ages eleven to sixteen. One man, in his mid-twenties. They matched. She waited for the others, obviously tertiary in importance, to clear the way, and let her targets coalesce into her sight.
Earlier, Launch had rigged the bridge with explosives. It was not a hard job, as the bridge was currently in disrepair and shut down. There was no security for it (for, why should there have been?), leading her to have no trouble at all getting onto it and planting the mines.
Launch loved these explosions. It took every bit of her to keep herself contained, phlegmatic, and determined to wait. She twitched her finger, impatiently waiting for them to stop talking and begin traversing the bridge. Then she would be able to shoot.
The plan was decidedly simple. The boys would run the length of bridge, and she would shoot the man. The explosions would, well, explode, taking the pupils in the fire. In one fell swoop, Makare’s mission would be completed. She still did not understand the full extent of this. For all she knew, the Iboinoshishi Samurai School was a rival of Makare’s, and would be the first victim in his long hit list. Of course, there’d be others too. But starting out with a man and a couple children was weird, to say the least.
The man glided forward, signaling to not only his students, but to Launch, that the game had begun. Launch stayed herself, making a perspicacious inclination to wait until the first lines of blasts detonated. As they did so, a couple of the children got caught in the explosions, and faltered. All the better to eliminate distractions.
The man was fast, she gave him that. She had planned to take her shot halfway down the bridge, but he was already nearing the end. She moved her barrel slowly and carefully down to him, when the man suddenly stopped. Perfect.
The wind had died down to 9 km/h, so she readjusted her scope quickly, keeping one eye on the man, careful as to not lose him. Since he had stopped, the children were getting closer. The shot needed to be taken now. Launch clicked the safety off her rifle and put her finger on the trigger. Taking the wind into account, she aimed just above his right shoulder, giving the bullet plenty of time to be pushed into his skull by the wind.
Launch pulled the trigger.
In this instance, though she did not see it, a first, small child irrupted onto the screen. The magnetic barrel compartment lurched forward as it spilled out the bullet. Launch held her breath. She waited the full three seconds for the boy to miss the bullet; to get out of the way and reopen her target. But he did not. He skidded forward, up and stopped just in time to take the bullet in the throat. The bullet tore through him, instantly dropping him, and pierced through to the man. The bullet hit the man in the leg, tearing through his vastus intermedius and causing him to topple over.
Yet Launch saw only the felled body, the blood, the quiet. The brief flash of light that had followed the bullet’s impact had blinded the hit area. She only saw the aftermath, and it appeared as successful as she had hoped. Her mission was completed. Well, the first part of her mission. Now she would tell Makare the news.
“Daimyo, we are done.”
“Yes, you may go away now.” he responded, his arms folded.
The Daimyo watched his men clear out the last bits of the rubble before them. The bridge they stood on was barely upright. Indeed, it was substantially perforated and crumbling. It was an excellent obstacle course for which to test them. They, the five of them, stood behind him. Doubtless, the children did not see it this way. They stood stiffly by respect, not nature.
To make matters worse, the wind was picking up. The folly was like mismasoning a ventriloquist. Yajirobe shivered. It was a cold, unavoidable wind. The kind that chills one to the marrow. His hair blowing wildly about him, the boy stepped up. The Daimyo nodded, seeing them approach. His lean figure silhouetted behind the spires jutting up in the distance, blanketed like a sheet against the high cold.
A slight continuance of whistling took up, but that was merely Yajirobe’s nose. He saw a flicker of pain shoot across the Daimyo’s face. The sound must’ve hurt him bad.
Now with the last of their Master’s servants behind them, the boys saw the bridge laid plain. It was worse than Yajirobe would have expected. Because there were no cars, it gave the illusion that the bridge was wider, but with the deep cracks and holes adorning it so nicely, that illusion shattered in an instant. The fall below would be substantial. Yajirobe could not guess how far it was, as he could just barely make out the water with his eyes, but even if he did survive the fall, the cold waters would freeze his body, turning him into a corpse before he could get back to land. That was a given.
Their Master snapped them out of their anxieties. He spoke quietly, though it carried over the tempest weather, “Get to the other side without dying.”
Brian was shivering not only from the cold, but from the prospect of running a bridge, especially considering the wind could easily blow him off the edge. He drew himself up, kneeling on the ground so as to get as far away from the sides as possible. Harotu, Nameless Child 1, and Nameless Child 2 showed no signs of being particularly handicapped by the height in which they were staying. Nonetheless, they did not move.
The Daimyo watched Brian before speaking, “The bridge is clear. The natural hazardous state as well as the winds will be challenge enough. I mean this in the most serious way; it will not be easy, but the hardest obstacle here is not the bridge.”
“What is it?” asked Yajirobe.
“Your emotions freezing up. Panicking where there is no room for panic. Letting your body sink like a log because your mind cannot keep up. This is the second level where we weed out the unfit.”
“I-I-It’s-s… a bridge… w-we’ll fall…” Brian sputtered out.
“Come on, Biney, it’s not as bad as you think,” replied Harotu.
Brian gritted his teeth, “How do you know?!?”
“He wouldn’t let us do anything that would kill us,” Harotu said.
“He made us get that hat!” replied Brian, incredulously.
“Idleness begets laziness,” said the Daimyo, spreading his arms out and leaping backward, “Those who wish to continue training, follow me.”
The large, robed figure jumping backward into the windy tunnel quickly disappeared from all sight. All five watched him in a state of trepidation before moving. Harotu and the nameless boys went first. Wary, like Brian was, Yajirobe was none too keen to jump in after them. Truth be told, he was not scared of heights. It had more to do with the utter lunacy of this undertaking. He looked down to Brian, who was just sitting there wincing.
“What do we do?” asked Brian.
“We have to go.”
“Okay, suit yourself.”
“Wait… you’re like me, you think this is crazy… right?”
Yajirobe stopped, “It’s all pretty stupid, but he’s the Master.”
“Yeah, I know…”
“There’s no point in stoppin’ now. Besides, he’ll have plenty of food for us when we get back.”
Brian did not respond. Yajirobe turned and ran forward into the darkness, into the fog, into the smoke, into the smell of burning flesh. For, as any good reader would remember, that naughty girl Launch had thought it a brilliant idea to rig the bridge with explosives. Now, she had kept them as small, mere land minds, seeing as destroying the bridge would cause unwanted attention. Still, she had barely taken into account the crumbling infrastructure of the bridge, and that even a few small explosions would be enough to rip it in two.
Yajirobe had missed the blunt of the explosions, which Harotu and the others had, unfortunately, taken head on. None of them were seriously hurt, but the surprise of it alarmed even the Daimyo who picked up his own pace and had to disperse away from the pack to remain un-hit. Expelling energy and dodging for real was not what he had intended, and he was just as puzzled to the reasoning for this madness as they were.
Harotu had stopped right in front of a large rough circle protruding from the ground. It was about three feet from his end to the other, and a bit less from the sides; an explosion had come out of it, and he had only just stopped before it, sliding his heels into the asphalt to scrape himself into a stop. He had put his hand up to protect his face only to be hit by the fiery blast. As he felt himself now, gingerly, he groaned as he reached his left hand and found his pinky and ring finger were badly burned, melded together.
Yajirobe came up on him in no time. The two exchanged looks as Yajirobe passed, but only for a minute. Yajirobe clenched his face, showing that he was utterly professional as he moved on. The fog covering the bridge was pretty thick. This meant that not only could Harotu not see Yajirobe once he was ten feet away, but he could not accurately judge upcoming cracks or holes and had to carefully sidestep them. Yajirobe ran through it with a different goal in mind; the faster the better. He jumped in zig-zags, this way and that, shooting out with only half his energy so that if he came upon a hole and was to land in it and fall through to the sea below, he could use his other half of energy to propel himself over the hole and roll onto the ground. This method worked out extraordinarily well, and he was in good company for half of the bridge.
As he closed in on the two nameless children, Yajirobe ran into a few of the explosions. The first one shot him over it, causing him to land hard on his elbows, dragging them and scraping them badly. Leaving a gruesome line of red gore behind him, Yajirobe stood up. He grunted in pain, clearing his head. The wind hit him with all its fury and stung him badly. His eyes watered, his nose began running. His vision was going blurry. Then, a blast went off behind him, jarring him awake. Yajirobe stuttered forward. Harotu was running again, and had hit another mine.
Yajirobe ducked from some flying shrapnel and trudged ahead, through the dismal weather. He and Harotu weaved and weaved and weaved until they were sure they were at the end. But no, it was not the end. Hell, it could have been the middle for all he knew. Good news was that this was where the Daimyo decided to stop. They came out of the fog into a place of clear just as they watched him stop. The first nameless child reached him, joyous at his good fortune of being number one.
The shot sounded dull compared to the explosions that had rattled the boys’ ears, but it was far more devastating. The errant bullet had pierced right through the first boy’s neck, instantly killing him. He twitched, in unconscious death throws as blood shot out, pooled around him, and was carried off in the wind. The force of it pushed him forward several steps and he stumbled, gaping, gasping, grasping at nothing until he tripped up into a hole and fell through, down into the waters below.
The three boys didn’t move. Fearing another shot, they had all dropped to the ground, hugging the dark road in hopes of salvation. They had just watched one of their own die. It was impossible. How could he die? Why would anyone even be shooting at them? The fear permeated them all. Yajirobe didn’t know what to do. There was nowhere to move. Even if the shooter was alone, he could easily pick off one or two more of them where they lay. And once again his mind fell back to the thought of ‘why is somebody shooting at us?’ What had they done?
Maybe it wasn’t them. Maybe it was the man they were with. He could have a death warrant. Yajirobe looked up for the Daimyo, hoping he had a plan, only to see the man on the ground, covered in blood too.
No. He can’t die. He can’t die.
Yajirobe climbed forward, crawling past the others to reach the man. He repeated those three sentences over and over in his head. He couldn’t go back to being a street urchin. He couldn’t go back to a life of dumpster diving. This man was making something out of Yajirobe; it couldn’t end here. He pushed himself up to the Master.
The bullet had shot into his leg. What damage it had done, Yajirobe could not exactly tell. What he could tell was that the Master was in excruciating pain and was not moving. He was unconscious, most likely, from the fall, hitting his head on the hard cement ground. Yajirobe wrapped his hands around the Daimyo’s body, picking him up. If the shooter wanted to get him, then so be it. The thought of his master hurt had erased any fear from Yajirobe’s mind.
Lo and behold, this was when the bridge decided to give out.
It started with a single creak, which became two creaks, and five creaks, and rose to louder and louder groans. Metal bent and the ground cracked further. Yajirobe looked behind him only to see the arc of the first tower flailing about madly in the wind, tweaking its position. It fell down the side, slamming into the water, flat. The other side followed not long after and then the middle gave out. It was right then Yajirobe realized he needed to get off that bridge.
He was not in the best of shape himself, but Yajirobe picked up the Master and slung him over his arm, trying to drag him forward as the bridge collapsed. It jarred him, sending them both forward, but Yajirobe maintained his position. He would not yield.
He and the Master reached the end of the bridge and they were thrown onto the ground again. Yajirobe had blood all over him, though he was not sure if it was his or the Daimyo’s. Suffice to say, when he turned around, he found himself to be on the edge of a cliff; the bridge entirely gone behind him. He looked down in the basin, the small part of the bridge that had fallen about ten feet below where he was, caving in on itself and creating a small peninsula pointing outward. On it, he saw the small, feeble figures of three boys clinging to the rocks. Brian especially was wandering discursively as if he had been pushed into this and not jumped into it. Yajirobe set down the Master, then ran down the slope after them, into the screaming wind looking for any source of help for his enormous predicament.
I really want to get some sleep. It’s 5 am. Not yet light out, but I can feel it coming. It’s crucial, really, at this point to go to bed. Otherwise, I guess it wouldn’t make much difference for me to stay up the night. The night is too hard to judge. I would have thought the hour to be no later than 2 am. But, like biting into a cookie only to find the chocolate chips are really raisins, I can see the true time laughing before face. But I cannot sleep, either way. The throbbing pain keeps me awake.
The halls smell of mandarin oranges and coffee; a rather foul stench that permeates throughout the walls and into my room. This is the doing of my roommates. I do not pay them much attention, or the attention I pay them is much less pronounced than I let on. They go about their daily routines, which mostly disinvolve me. This is not one of those.
I shudder as I open my door, only to find the stench has made up residence in here while I was gone. Ghastly. I can’t stop it. By the shelf, I set down my cup. There’s no one around to yell at me to get a coaster. In my room, I have my own rules.
My room is nothing worth mentioning. I like that it is carpeted. That’s nice. If it was wood or stone, I could not possibly play on the floor. It’s lucky because most of the floors are planked in wood. The walls and ceiling being no spot of reprieve. I think it’s all mahogany. Maybe cherry or walnut. I don’t know. I am no wood expert. My little room is the sole bearer of carpet.
The pain still hurts. I reach for my cup and take a drink, trying to out-taste what I am breathing in. I wonder if, at the end, the nothingness will be black. That’s what it usually is imagined as. That or white. Black would be dark. White would hurt my eyes. I would like something different… a pink nothingness. Eh, you won’t see anyone talking about that. And I can’t bring it up to her, or them. That is no surprise. I have no close friends, or really friends at all. I have some who attend to me, but they wouldn’t want to hear this. Nor would they engage me properly. I could go out and buy a person… well if they sell people, and I could have that person listen to me. Well, I guess I already tried doing that. That’s why I have them.
I walk over to my little table and sit down. I see the box, the small little wooden box, perched atop three books, all of which I am reading currently. No! That’s not right!
I jump up, my heart slowing to a crawl as I quickly listen around and feel the air for another presence. I did not place that box there. Somebody had been in my room.
I wheel around, sighting my entire room in a single gaze, taking it all in, and processing if anything else had been moved. No, none of it had.
I go back to the box. Only this had been moved, I am sure of that. I knew every centimeter of my room; all possessions were placed according to their worth and practicality, so that I, and only I, could tell the proper setup.
The first conclusion I reach is the servants. They could have been in here. Wait, no they couldn’t have. I locked the door. I have the only key. I told them no cleaning today. I step forward and open the box. It has two small hinges on the back side that swing it open as if it were a small treasure chest. Indeed, it holds a prize to me.
The box is empty.
If I had emotions, I would probably feel angry now. Well, probably anxious too. I don’t know.
Inside, there had been a ball. It was round and I liked to throw it because it could not break. When I found it, twelve years ago, it had been in on the river bank near my house. I had played with it and thrown it and done many other activities with it. It felt as if it was made of glass, but even dropping it had not destroyed it. Throwing it into a wall or crushing it with my force or using help to squeeze it, it had never broken. Of course, it had two other peculiarities that I have never seen before in a ball – it was translucent orange and had a face of seven stars. And I am fond of that ball.
Logically, if someone came for it, it would be gone. No one would move the box, take it out, and leave it. I look under my bed and behind the table, but it is in vain - hopelessly hopeful to find the box had come out of my closet, flown to the table, and landed precisely on the third book and dropped the ball somewhere along the way. No it hadn’t.
The ball was my sole possession remaining from that time. The before time. Nostalgia is a powerful, chiefly underrated feeling, and it encompasses me fully now that I think about my ball. Damn, the pain is coming back again.
I stand back up and survey my room. The smell of oranges, which is rather pleasant on its own, has faded away to nothing but nothingness, leaving only the hideously repulsing smell of coffee. I feel dizzy from it. I stagger for a few moments before finding my footing and my chair. Why must it hurt like this?! I cannot think with the pain! My crippled dexterity aside, this inability to cope is worrisome.
When I go to sit down, the phone rings. I pick it up immediately.
“This is General Blue. The targets you have requested are dead. I have left the bodies as they lay, as you requested, Mister Daniel.”
“G-good to hear!” I say, but it is too upbeat. Faking emotions is sometimes hard, and I cannot judge correctly the tones of which to use.
“Is that all you request of us?” asks Blue.
“That is all I need of your services,” I say, this time in monotone. No, that was no good either. He’ll just think I’m uninterested in what he’s saying. I’m really not. He has fantastic news.
It’s their fault.
“Excellent, sir. I hope we at the Red Ribbon Army have satisfied you–”
I pull the phone away from my ear, holding it carefully with two fingers. Business must be listened to, but his advertisements and self-praise… I could do without those. People often talk to me as if I want to hear what they say. Some like to make small talk in favor of getting to know me. When we face one another, that is how you may learn about a person. Not through incessant talk. Such things are migraine-inducing.
I bring the phone back up to my ear.
“and if you ever need our services again-”
And back away. It’s amazing how grown men, and dogmatic ones too, like Blue, can fall so readily into the droning of their masters. Money is involved. That makes us all be polite, until he gets paid. Once he’s paid, he won’t bother to talk, and I won’t bother to listen. That’s not completely true. I am not listening right now, anyway.
Somebody knocks on my door. It annoys me to be bothered so early. It’s her, I know it is. I bring the phone back to my ear and interrupt Blue. I have read in books that interrupting a person is rude, and I should ‘avoid doing so at any measure’, except in the pursuit of aggrandized self-righteousness, but it can’t be avoided, “Thank you, General. Your services are much appreciated. If I ever need you again, I’ll be sure to call for you at once. Goodnight!”
Wait. No. It’s not night. It’s 5am. What do I do? Call him back up and say good morning? Just for that? No, that’d be weird. I couldn’t pull that off.
She knocks again. I have no name suitable for her level of annoyance.
I remember her and stand up, dragging my bad leg to the door as I slide the phone into my pocket. Doesn’t she know the time? I should be allowed to sleep. No disturbance. I have to heal. They can take the day off. They can leave me alone. They realize how I am. This is no time to bother me. Yet she does. She assumes I’m sleeping and (knowing that) comes to wake me anyway. If only she knew I have gotten none at all.
I open the door and beckon her in. If we consider everyone around me to be a chess piece, I could easily say she is a Bishop. A very powerful piece, but only if used correctly. I feel like I am both the Queen and the King. I created this plan alone, I acted on it alone, and my skill will make it successful… but that I cannot do alone. A Queen is the most valuable piece, but it cannot win alone. I need her. Even with a zwischenzug move, I’m not sure I could sacrifice her. The others, most of them could go. Not her.
Now I’m at the disadvantage. The retaliation for using the Red Ribbon will come soon. Maybe it already came. Maybe Makare came in my room and stole my little orange ball, himself. I wouldn’t put it past him.
No chance of knowing now.
She comes in, and we sit. I am not angry at her for knocking. Her business will unquestionably be very important.
Still, the pain is killing me.
As I can make it a perfectly accurate statement by the tally’s official headcount, I was made aware of the death of forty-nine solipsist monks on this day. On this glorious day.
Today was January nineteenth, in the Age seven hundred forty-nine.
- Utopian Ripcord chapter name origin - Original name. It is named after the dead monks, who were killed, thus shattering their utopia lifestyle.
- This chapter was very ambitious, plot-wise. I introduce tons of new characters, and quickly get into Yajirobe's training. Looking back, I'm very happy that I managed to do this so early in the story, as Spindlerun would not have worked had all this plot not happened so soon in this chapter. Simply looking at it from a reader's perspective, its' quite an extraordinary chapter. Spindlerun (and this chapter in particular) reminds me of the final season of Breaking Bad. Obviously, Spindlerun was written first, but the similarity is in the pacing. There is never a wasted moment, never a pause for filler. The people are involved in an incredibly fast-moving, yet action-packed plot even in the first chapter (with taking blue's hat). And here in the second chapter, it quickly becomes even more hectic. So despite being such a long story, as I'm reading back over it, I'm becoming more aware of how fast everything is going. And I like it quite a bit.
- Makare was one of the first names I came up with in the story. I always knew that he would be a villain.
- I wanted to try something different for the main villain in this story. Makare and Naigo are essentially vying for the ability to become the main villain. Yet, at the same time, there's General Blue and there's Launch. Perhaps even Elijah could be considered somewhat of an antagonist with dangerous challenges he gives his recruits. Harotu is no good guy, either. And even Daniel orders the execution of several dozen innocent monks. So there's more of a struggle for the villains to come out on top than for the heroes to.
- While I wasn't really into nihilism (I only brought it up to show that Makare saw nihilists and solipsts as the same) at this point in time, I had done some personal research on solipsism. I thought it was a very weird philosophy, with no legitimate logic behind it. Creating a colony of solipsist monks was also a subtle joke, as by nature that is oxymoronic. The fact of the matter is that solipsists only believe they exist. So why would they all come together? Surely they would all believe that they were the single being who existed. So this was an attempt to both show something ludicrous and humorous as it was to explain how Naigo could use energy.
- This is the first chapter I name the samurai school. It's called the "Iboinoshishi Samurai School". Iboinoshishi is Japanese for warthog. I specifically chose this name to liken it with the Kame school (and the Crane school), both of which are named after specific animals. If Yajirobe were an animal, I reckon he would be a warthog, so that is why I settled on that specific animal.
- Launch's inclusion was for a variety of reasons. For one, I wanted to include more canon Dragon Ball characters, which would serve as both a challenge and an asset in making this story seem more alive. Blue was already added in - and his inclusion was precisely researched and written so he could even be involved to maintain canonicity. Launch's history is very murky, so this wasn't as big a problem. Additionally, when she was first introduced in Dragon Ball, she was acting as a mercenary of sorts, so that's why I kept her as one here. She had quite the reputation at that time, so it makes logical sense that Makare would know about her. As well, I wanted to add more female characters. Like most writers on this site, I am notorious for not using all that many female characters (a fact which I have been correcting in numerous recent stories of mine). Using Launch fulfilled not only my desire for more canon characters, but also my desire for more female characters.
- "This was the good life." is a reference to "The Good Life" by Weezer, as well as the original name of this story idea under the Legacies Collection.
- Yajirobe's selfishness is put on full display in his opening section in chapter 2. Of course, it has to do with food, which is a common theme with him.
- The thing about Yajirobe overhyping the flavor is a remark on American society, where we tend to build up things, overhyping them to the point of being incredibly unrealistic. I mean, I know why people do it - often, people want something to be the best thing ever. And everyone else (mostly people on TV) just has to kill time. It doens't make it right, however.
- I like how Yajirobe's desire to be a hero has faded. This is so human of him. Often, we have desires for certain things to happen, but as they don't or as time wears on, these desires lessen. For Yajirobe, this moment adds a bit of reality into his (thus far) dream-like quest.
- Anders was named before the story began. He is more important than the other two nameless children because he gets injured (and thus actually survives the story!) and is taken away.
- Bacon is a drug to Yajirobe.
- I think it's cool that I get to introduce Yajirobe to bacon. Great stuff.
- In a way, the Daimyo was based on me more than Brian was (although many mannerisms of Brian's are mine). His especially awkward way of talking and dealing with people was basically me mocking myself. He also is slightly based off of L from Death Note, but those similarities are mostly physical.
- Elijah was originally supposed to be Daniel. When I wrote chapter one, the bit at the very end was supposed to be in his voice. Of course, I changed this. I'm not sure where the name Elijah came from. I didn't really want to use as common a name as Daniel and Brian were, but it still had to be a name that people would know. Elijah is just a cool name in general though (see Elijah Wood), so that may be a reason for why I settled on it.
- I remember having to do extended research on katanas and bokkens to get a grasp for how samurai trained. It probably took me twice as long as it took me to research all the stuff about the Dragon Ball timeline, locations, and available canon characters for use.
- The training sessions were the hardest for me to write. Training is always problematic - it is often boring if you show it, yet it seems like you overpower your characters (and write lazily) if you don't. So I always tried to have other interesting subplots going on as they trained to try and make it more interesting.
- Harotu and Brian were specifically paired together to develop their relationship.
- "like a drunk with a bat in the ratworks of Riften" is a reference to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
- "Yajirobe shook him off, finding it as deplorably unlistenable as some treasonous Lombax lie." is a reference to The Ratchet and Clank series. I believe it is specifically a reference to Up Your Arsenal.
- Yajirobe needed to lose to Anders. He is only human; he is not perfect. In order to not make someone a stu, you have to not make them win every battle. As well as losing battles, Yajirobe also gets socially isolated from the rest throughout the story (and he's a cynic) so that not only keeps him from being a stu, but keeps him in line with his canon personality. It was tricky to write, but it makes sense when reading (and certainly looks easier than it was).
- Particularly for Yajirobe's lines in this chapter, I went back and re-watched some episodes of Dragon Ball near his introduction to get myself more familiar with how he talks.
- Haruto's questioning of Brian about why he was whining is similar to how HZ talks. He's always looking for logic through comparing situations.
- Calling Brian "Biney" is a reference to the Showtime series, "Dexter". In the first season, the main villain's name was Brian, and his nickname was Biney. He was my favorite villain in that show (and that show had as many bad seasons as it had good), so that's why I referenced it.
- The Daimyo had to accept Anders' challenge because no samurai will run from a fight. It would be a great dishonor to appear so cowardly.
- When the Daimyo asked the three boys to step forward, he didn't say why. Of course, after Anders is hurt, the Daimyo can't continue the lesson, so we'll never know exactly what he wanted. But since both Brian and Harotu were called forward, I doubt Elijah was going to congratulate them for winning.
- The Daimyo deals with Anders in a brutal way because Anders is so arrogant. He just eliminates him at that point, as he sees that Anders is not someone who should be a samurai. So yes, he did go harder on the boy than he had to, but he had good reason for it.
- The Daimyo's defense against Anders is something I've seen in several movies. I'm not exactly sure which ones they were (though I believe various Kill Bill volumes were amongst them), but in all of them, the master samurai could always dodge weak opponents without even drawing his sword. Even when he does draw it, he keeps it sheathed, as drawing the blade is an obligation to kill.
- The main purpose of the first training was to show the Daimyo's power. Clearly none of the boys are even in the same league as him. They are nowhere close to as powerful as him. He toe-taps Anders and nearly kills the boy. Additionally, the scene shows character development for the three main characters, but that's pretty obvious.
- "My training will make you exceptional, but you are not exceptional yet." is one of my favorite lines of dialogue I've ever written. This sums up the entirety of what the Daimyo wants out of the boys. He wants people who will work hard, who will obey him, and who have a desire to become great. Those are who he deems to be worthy of getting a katana.
- The beauty of the Blue scene is that it isn't stated who he's going to kill. The solipsist monks were only mentioned in passing, so who would guess it was them? The obvious thought would be the samurai trainees at this point, but that just wouldn't work at all. Once again, this is a piece that shows that every little thing matters. Every bit of plot has some crucial importance later on. Blue's only purpose in the story is supposed to be to kill the monks, but he does so much more throughout.
- I do not remember where the name Igaron Mountain came from.
- Blue's disillusionment with himself continues in his short POV in this chapter. He once again talks about how masculine he is and how his troops respect him. Yet in the last chapter, he cried like a baby when a kid stole his hat, and all of his soldiers did not keep this fact a secret.
- Launch's perspective is mainly me writing with sheer pleasure from the perspective of a sniper. It's something I've always wanted to do, and I spared no expense with her scene.
- Launch's perspective gives more information about Elijah, specifically that he's in his mid-twenties. He is extraordinarily young to be as strong as he is, not to mention being the leader of the school. This continues to beg the question of what happened to his master?
- It is specifically not mentioned which of the boys Launch kills. But it shows how really evil she was in her yellow-haired form. She just killed a child and didn't bat an eye.
- The use of a bridge in disrepair lined with bombs is a reference to a level in Medal of Honor: Frontline, where there is such a bridge.
- "The folly was like mismasoning a ventriloquist." is a reference to Epic Mafia.
- The thing about the sound hurting the Daimyo's ears is about me. I have very sensitive ears as well.
- The Daimyo is just so brutal. I mean, his line, “Get to the other side without dying.” just shows how seriously he takes his training. Evidently, he's trained several groups before Yajirobe's, and they all died before anyone could become a samurai. It's not hard to see why. But at the same time, it's easy to see why someone who is so good at it would make such hard tests. He doesn't want to allow anyone into the group who isn't very skilled.
- Brian's fear of heights is something that I have a bit of. This was a bit of my personality bleeding into that character.
- The bridge was meant to look like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
- The thing about Daniel arguing about going to sleep at 5am is something I was struggling with when writing this story. As I wrote all of the early chapters in one sitting, this often went late into the night. There was more than one time that I didn't finish a chapter until past 5 am at night. 5 am is the time I believe that it's no longer night. That's morning. And often, it's better to just stay up a few more hours to get on a better sleep schedule.
- I wrote Daniel's perspective in first-person to play with form. Usually stories are first-person or third-person. By intermixing the two, I was both experimenting with form and practicing both types at the same time. It was good for writing.
- Of course, Daniel's original monologue was written with the idea that he was going to be the Daimyo. The Daimyo had been shot in the leg at the end of the last section. That hurt in his leg was going to be from that (though it was not mentioned). As I slightly retconned Daniel to be Mr. Satan's older brother, I made him into that guy in the first chapter who gave Yajirobe the fliers. And that guy tripped over his legs at the end, damaging them. That injury wasn't super serious, so in a way, the expression of pain in this chapter is mocking that.
- I really hate raisin cookies.
- When I was writing this chapter, it was so early in the morning that my parents' coffee pot had come on, so the smell of mandarin oranges and coffee was something that I was really smelling while writing this. So into the chapter it goes.
- My dad had recently yelled at me for not using a coaster. So into the chapter it goes!
- In real life, I prefer carpet for the very reason that you can be on it more. So into the story it goes!!
- I bought some cherry wood planks for the entrance to my room recently before writing this chapter. So into the chapter it goes!!!
- I am very perceptive about things in my room. I know where everything is exactly, and if even a pencil or piece of paper is moved, I can tell. So into the story it goes!!!!
- Of course, his ball is a Dragon Ball. This is important to the story for numerous reasons. For one, this is the first serious story of mine (not counting the parodies and alcohol-influenced comedies) where I actually used a Dragon Ball. And it's not all Dragon Balls, no. Just one. And that's extraordinarily unique in its own right. The Seven Star Ball was the only one I could use. I spent much time going over the history of the balls, and the Seven Star Ball was really the only one unaccounted for at this time. It just had to get to the area around Ox-King's castle by the end of the story, and that was doable, compared to what I would have had to do for the other balls.
- I am a nostalgiaholic, much like Daniel.
- Much like Daniel, I also hate the smell of coffee.
- Daniel's disdain for listening to advertisements is something I have disdain for as well.
- "People often talk to me as if I want to hear what they say." - can you think of a more accurate phrase ever?
- The awkward ending to the conversation with Blue is so typical of me. :(
- Yet again, we are left wondering as to who Blue killed. They're all dead, so surely it isn't Yajirobe, right? Right?! (dragon balls can revive him yo)
- Originally the woman was supposed to be Kumo. Looking at it from Daniel's perspective, she is either a whore or girlfriend.
- The mention of Makare certainly makes it seem weird. We know his name is Daniel, yet he knows Makare? He's done something to damage Makare? He's clearly not the Daimyo though.
- The final line reveals it all. Blue was called in to kill the monks, to stop Naigo from learning how to wield energy. But we don't know if the Red Ribbon Army was too late. We also don't know who Daniel is and whose side he is on. That kind of cliff-hanger is excellent, now reading it back. It really makes me want to read the next chapter to find out what happens next, which is a sign of a successful end.
Chapter 3: Mogul’s Whelp 
They were like two cats fighting over a mouse, like two seagulls fighting over a single French fry, like a simile to some other poignant and esoteric third thing. Naigo and Makare were, for lack of a better word, training. However, as vivacity will soon reprise, their collective disparity was evident.
The clash of steel was to be expected. These two were well acquainted, so there was no need to train with simple Bokkuns. Naigo wore full armor when training, which made him look like a right Shogunate. Comparatively, Makare was clothed in meager rags, like an aged and ravaged oracle barely statured against the tall opponent. Makare attacked with a swipe, causing Naigo to recoil and defend. With speed, Makare ducked under the man and rolled through his legs. Standing back upright, he punched Naigo with the hilt of his katana. The taller man grunted in annoyance, before swatting Makare aside.
Makare brushed him off and rolled backward, tucking his katakana into his belly as he did. Naigo long-chopped at him – a mere staying attack that let the taller brute get closer again. Makare parried the attack, flipping his katana in a roll over the other and kicked up the dirt around him. He turned back around to see Naigo swinging again. He parried it, stepping back over a rock. Using this small abrasion in the ground, he turned himself slightly, causing both he and his opponent to move in a different direction now. This one, he had planned.
Makare blocked every attack Naigo offered. Nothing could get through his carefully watchful eyes. The taller brute held a strength advantage over him, however, so he could not exactly turn the tables by trying an attack of his own. Instead, Makare kept Naigo at bay, constantly readjusting his katakana to meet Naigo’s. Makare walked backward, ever so slowly so that Naigo would not notice what he was doing. It worked perfectly. They walked into place, which was no more than a quarter mile away from where they had started. Makare knew this land well. He had been meditating here for months. So when he felt the slush of damp mud hitting his boots, he knew he had won.
Makare leaped backward onto a piece of wood, dodging a particularly nasty attack. Naigo had stumbled forward because of this. His attack went un-parried, and thus his full weight drove him straight into the mud. He stood there, squelching and pulling at his feet to get them loose. This momentary annoyance gave Makare all he needed. The high ground aside, he sprung off the mossy wood and jumped to the side of Naigo. The man had watched him do this, so Makare was greeted with a face full of steel. He put his own sword up to stop that, and it pushed him off to the side. No matter, really, because now he was out of the mud. Makare landed softly on a knee and then stood up.
His quarry was still ripping, fruitlessly, at the mud that had suckered him in. His weighted armor had been the main problem here; dragging him down, it had proved positively unyielding. Makare walked up to Naigo’s back, and careful not to step in the mud, himself, he tapped the brute across the back of his neck with the katana. This simple tap proved immediately that Makare had won – for if this was a real battle, that would have been Naigo’s head. He stopped pulling at the mud, and sheathed his katana. Makare did likewise, and then helped his friend out of the sinkhole, and back onto the sandy ground.
“I should have known it was a trick,” Naigo sighed.
“Naturally, you say that now.”
Naigo ruffled his hair before continuing. “Was that spur of the moment?”
“Of course. I had hoped I could defeat you simply in a blow exchange, but you have grown much stronger than me. But I’m still smarter. So I’m still better.”
“Yeah, let’s see how that goes when I get my ki under control.”
“Yes, I would like an update on that, if you could.”
“The monks are showing me how to control it after I form it. They said once I master that, I can create individual attacks faster,” replied Naigo.
“And this will take a week?”
He nodded, “No more than that.”
Naigo began cleaning his boots of mud, first taking them off, then twisting them around his arm. He took out a dagger and began scrapping off all mud as he spoke, “You never told me what happened with that Launch girl.”
“She has not contacted me since we last saw her,” Makare said with his eyes closed.
“Do you think she’s dead?”
“Daniel would not stoop so low,” he replied, simply.
Naigo knew better than to pursue action on Daniel, so he kept quiet and scrapped his boots clean.
There is that reckless intent which may swallow up a man and spit him out again, as purchase to his wandering morality. Thy quarry’s heart blackened and lugubrious from years of insular gnawing – preying upon one’s thoughts as if they were perishable goods, no more cared for than the spoiled breads in their pantry. No more indebted to than by the shackles of their duties. No more wished upon than by their invocations to simply look away while the illusion of security fades around. This cycle – one of conceited importance – was but a glimmer of thought to them. A brief flicker every now and then of some coming shadow or coming evil which they could not place, yet could not completely deny.
Yajirobe was silent. His hands were padded heavily by thick woolen gloves. His ruddy, round face was steeled up against itself, thickly and completely rigid in tantrum to the cold. He held a sword in his hands, his right hand dominate, guiding each swing forward. The bokken, or wooden sword, was crafted in the exact likeness of a real sword. However, being hardly the pupils of the Master for a week, real swords were out of the question. The Master had promised them great rewards for their patience (what have you done for me lately?! Yajirobe thought), but swinging around a piece of wood did not encourage him much. In fact, these lethargic, painfully planned exercises were a detriment to his confidence. Twice now had Yajirobe proven himself to the Master. Twice had his life been in mortal peril. And twice had the fruits of his labor been callously cast aside like a common housewife.
It was not all the Master’s fault. Brian had brought up the brilliant (absolutely brilliant) idea that since the Master had been wounded, he was not able to bring his students about on the pace promised to them. And despite him being a fickle, enigmatic warrior, the Master would have surely given his thanks to Yajirobe for saving him, had he not been bedridden all this time.
Yajirobe slammed his bokken down, splintering wood and hay all over his hapless target. It was a humanoid shape, but that hardly meant anything. It could not fight back. It could not teach Yajirobe that he kept no guard, or that his tweaked his foot to the right when preparing a back swing. The servants watched, merely. They were not trained samurai. In fact, Yajirobe didn’t know who they were. There was the Master and Kumo, and the two of them were clearly samurai, but aside from that, there were no others. Surprising, really, for school like this.
As he continued to pound that target in front of him (which did nothing but mock and goad!), a hand fell on Yajirobe’s shoulder. He stopped, and immediately craned his neck around to see who it was. It was the Master. His long black hair was flying around him, madly, from the biting winds. He was not looking at Yajirobe, though there was instant understanding that this was a conversation.
“Yajirobe, stop,” he said, simply.
“W-what?” replied Yajirobe.
“I am going to jump-start our training today. We’re going somewhere different.”
“You mean we are going to do something important finally?”
“Oh, yes. Go call them for me,” the man said, and he sounded tired and distant.
Yajirobe did so.
The Daimyo began to speak once they had all huddled around him, “The last few days–”
“Who was it?!” Brian yelled.
“Who was…?” The Daimyo asked slowly.
Harotu scoffed, “You know what we’re talking about! The one who shot him.”
The Daimyo didn’t respond. On his face was a mixture of pain from his bullet wound, curiosity at his students vigor, and reservation to answer them.
“You never said anything about all of this being life threatening,” continued Brian.
“The risks were there at your first mission.”
“Not on the last one,” said Yajirobe. “We were bein’ hunted.”
The others nodded in agreement.
“Very well. The one pursuing us would be Makare,” replied the Daimyo, his eyes like saucers, but distant and uninterested, “He won’t be a problem again. I had not thought he would try something so base against children, but I expected too much of him. I won’t allow it to happen again. You can be assured.”
“But master–” Brain started.
“Follow me,” the man interrupted. “We have training today,” he then walked off, letting them either follow him or give up.
Fearful, silent, yet loyal, the remaining four boys followed their master out of the gate and down the long cobbled road back to the city.
They had not actually gone back to Orange Star City. On his way down before, Yajirobe had noticed many trees lining the road. He had not thought much of them at that time. However, before him and the others was now something of great importance. A property gate, barely showing itself from the leaves that decorated it so generously, must have led itself back into the trees and to some tucked away little house. Its importance was not made clear to Yajirobe. Still, he followed the others into it. As he walked through the gate, he felt ever so claustrophobic when the trees became close, and the road ever narrower. He made sure to hold onto his bokken tightly. The reaching branches would surely snag it otherwise.
The walk went on for what seemed like three hours (in reality, it was seven minutes). No one spoke during it, and since they were moving single file, the heeding social friendliness was thus abandoned.
They came up upon a ruddy mill. Around it were, perhaps, hundreds of large barrels. Almost all were closed. The Daimyo motioned them forward into this quiet place, and they obeyed. Yajirobe noticed the ground was soft and muddy, horribly muddy, and it got on his feet. He grunted in annoyance, though no one heard him. Not more than a dozen feet into this place, a voice yelled out:
“Who’s that?!” it said, and Yajirobe picked up that it was a boy’s.
“The Daimyo of Iboinoshishi,” the master responded, coolly.
“Huh? What’re you doin’ here?” it responded.
A moment later, a small figure jumped out of the mill’s window, and landed pristinely onto a barrel. His shining face, long, black curly hair, and high chin met the Daimyo without any hesitation. The two locked eyes, their manners quite resigned from Yajirobe and the others. Yajirobe swore he could hear the Daimyo whispering something under his breath to this kid, but if Yajirobe, with his brilliant hearing, couldn’t even discern the words, then this boy surely could not either. Yajirobe smirked. The kid was probably a novice hear-er.
Then the Daimyo spoke for real, and his voice was more direct than Yajirobe had ever known it, “I need one hundred fifty-seven barrels, Mark.”
“Yeah, what for?” the boy replied, spitting accidentally.
“I am going to a hill. Then I will roll all of them down the hill.”
“That’s good enough for me!” the boy responded, jumping off his barrel, and gesturing to the barrels around, “There’s about two hundred here anyway.”
The Daimyo nodded, and stepped forward, “Give this to your brother,” he said, quickly handing Mark a piece of paper.
Mark looked up at him, puzzled, but then opened the paper. His eyes went as wide as something which is wide, but he pocketed the note in the stead of speaking.
“Wait!” Mark shouted, “You can only take them if I get to come and watch!”
“You can watch.”
“Ha, you promised!” screamed Mark, wagging his finger at the Daimyo, “Now you can’t take it back! You can’t take it back!”
“I was not planning on it, Mark.”
“Good, because it was a promise.”
The Daimyo did not look at Mark as he sighed. Instead, he moved forward and began collecting the barrels. The four students followed him and moved the barrels together, sliding them easily through the cesspool of muck at their feet. What lesson they could possibly be learning, Yajirobe had no idea. Before he could muster up the courage to ask, however, Brian did so for him.
“Um, sir, what exactly are we doing with these?”
“We are going to a hill, and I will roll all of them down the hill. You will be at the bottom, and will dodge these barrels.”
“But that’s crazy!” Yajirobe said.
“Why?” asked the Daimyo.
“Because… it’s dangerous. Those barrels could kill us.”
“Then leave. The first lesson I was taught by the Old Master was how to dodge barrels. It was the first test he gave me,” the Daimyo said. “Awareness of your surroundings and immediate strategic deduction is very important for you to learn. If you can’t, you won’t get any real katanas.”
“Do we really need so many?” Harotu grumbled as he moved barrel after barrel into the conglomerate, “Seriously, can’t we just dodge a barrel each?”
And then there was silence. The four boys worked with their master to tie a rope around the barrels and line them up in rows of two each. Then, the five worked small groups of the barrels up out of the muck, and back down the road. They went further south from that position, until they found a nice hill and placed the barrels on top. After that, they went back and got the rest of the barrels, moving all of them in small groups of about twenty. It took them all of five hours, and Yajirobe was at least happy they had stopped for a well-respected luncheon of cheese and milk and crackers and ham halfway through. After lunch, they went right back to carrying all the barrels up that detestable hill. It almost made Yajirobe mad – he was disconcerted at the very least – that they would only be rolling these barrels down the hill in the end: all this force and all this work just to destroy them. But the others weren’t complaining, so Yajirobe did all he could to move his line faster than Harotu’s next to him.
The phlegmatic master was offset (and annoying-so in Yajirobe’s opinion) by the bumptious and energetic little kid who had given them the barrels. Mark spoke constantly, talking about his skill and finesse in readying the barrels all by himself. He had supposedly poured wine – for yes, all the barrels had liquid in them, making them much heavier – into each barrel today. Over two hundred of them.
“No you didn’t,” Yajirobe muttered.
“Huh, what was that?” said Mark, running over to the source of the noise.
“You didn’t do all this today.”
“Yeah, there’s no way you could have,” Brian said, agreeing.
“Shows you how much you know!” replied Mark, very aggressively, “Even ask Elijah!”
“Who?” asked Brian and Harotu together.
“He poured it all today,” said the Daimyo, who was walking solemnly at the front.
“Who’s Elijah?” Harotu asked Mark.
Mark nodded to the Daimyo with a devilish grin.
“Whoa, it’s true. He does have a country name…” Brian whispered to the others. Harotu and Nameless Child 2 nodded in collective awe.
Yajirobe, however, didn’t. So what if their master was from the country? Brian was too and Brian wasn’t even the best one. Yajirobe was the best. And he had a city name. Harotu had a city name too, and he was probably better than Brian…
Yajirobe thought these thoughts to himself, and kept them to himself. Before he knew it, all the barrels were on top of the hill. The six stood there, as the sun starting setting in the distance. It had literally taken them all day to do this. They were tired, grumpy, dripping with sweat, yet the master still wanted them to go dodge all these rolling deathtraps now?
“Can’t we do this tomorrow?” Yajirobe whined.
Brian, who was breathing rather hard and leaning over a barrel, looked up. “Hey, when the old master made you do this, how’d you get through it, sir?”
The Daimyo looked pensive for a moment, then took something out of his robes. He showed it to his students and Mark, “I used this.”
The small thing was an orange ball. It had seven stars on its face, and it was partially translucent. Yajirobe had never seen such a thing before.
“What’s that?” asked Harotu.
“This is my ball. I found it in the river when I was a small boy. When my master approached me to be his student, he allowed me to use this to throw at the barrels and break them before they could hit me.”
“But… how is it strong enough to not break?”
“I don’t know. Now, go down. The sun is setting, and this will be much more difficult in the dark.”
They needed no more encouragement to make haste down the hill. Even Yajirobe went without any last retorts. When they reached the bottom, the four turned around, shielding their precious eyes from the sun, which had lowered itself to right behind the standing figure of Elijah. The master raised his hand, and then let some barrels loose with his wakizashi (which is a shorter blade than the katana). They rolled down the hill with surprising force. Within moments, the four would have to come up with what to do. Yajirobe looked at the others, and gleaned little help from them. He turned back to face the barrels coming down.
“The master used his ball, so why can’t we use something too? Look, we have our bokkens, so let’s try using those,” Brian said, quickly.
He undid his bokken, and charged forward, before lowering himself to the ground with his feet and bokken extended ahead. As the first barrels came down, Brian plunged the point of his wooden sword forward. The force of this caused it to jar itself off course, flapping and flinging about wildly to the left, but away from Brian. Yajirobe would have tried this same thing as well, but there was no time. A barrel was right before him. So Yajirobe did the first thing that came to mind.
He jumped with all the force he could over the screaming barrel, propelling himself safely out of way. Despite his weighty size and comatose disposition, Yajirobe was actually quite nimble. Just as with his speed in getting Blue’s hat, Yajirobe surprised the others by having the ability to so easily jump about.
Harotu and Nameless Child 2 did the same thing as Brian, because they were regular humans. And as we all know, regular humans cannot jump like Yajirobe. Their success was, sadly, not as real as Yajirobe’s or Brian’s. Harotu perforated four barrels with great technique, spilling wine all over himself. But then, Elijah (their master) angled a few barrels from behind, and Harotu was not quick enough to turn. His next jab was quite sloppy and unprepared, leading his bokken to get stuck in the barrel and be ripped from his hands. He cried out curses after it, but nay it was gone, and he was defensively naked. Harotu quickly punched Nameless Child 2 in the shoulder.
“Hey, give me a lift into this tree.”
The nameless child agreed, as most nameless children do, and helped push Harotu up into a nearby tree. Verily it was that all four children took this challenge easier than Elijah had expected, and even as he removed the last of his barrels, he was quite impressed by the ingenuity, the quick wit of his students.
“Yeah, yeah! Hit him! HIT HIM!” screamed Mark, who was making hell of things. “Come on!”
Elijah finished with the barrels and the four children paused down below him. Mark’s screams for blood echoed through the forest, but were paid little heed. Elijah grabbed Mark by the shoulder and, pushing him down the hill, began to speak:
“Tell your brother Daniel that I would like to see him again. It’s been a long time coming,” said the Daimyo.
“Yeah, I’ll tell him if you keep giving me money like this!” said Mark in a rowdy voice, patting the pocket which held the paper Elijah had given him earlier.
“I will make sure of it,” the man promised.
The two walked down the hill; Elijah yet limping from his badly wounded leg.
Yajirobe had expected to sleep well that night. The training had been hard and laborious. The dinner had been amongst the best he had ever had. Wild boar was his favorite meat, and this night he had been granted all that he desired. But as he lay on his bed, he could not sleep. Brian’s legs dangled over the edge of the bed above Yajirobe, their shadows casting long, snake-like shapes on Yajirobe’s face. He simply could not sleep like this.
Yajirobe stood up, preparing to walk out, when a shape caught the edge of his eye. It was Harotu, who Yajirobe liked to think as the less annoying of the two. At least he had been so far. Harotu came up to Yajirobe and, in a silent whisper, urged him to talk about something. The two of them quietly exited the bedrooms and went out into a small corridor to talk. Yajirobe was only doing this so as to not cause an argument and thus wake the others. Really, he had no plans to talk to this city-boy.
“So yeah, I couldn’t sleep either. I was thinking, you know, about how we never really do anything together. We should make this fun. We can, if we want.”
Yajirobe grumbled an affirmation of Harotu’s request, hoping that would shut him up. Sadly, it did nothing of the sort.
“Well, we could go to the city, don’t you think?”
“What’s in the city that’s so great?” lamented Yajirobe, thinking only of the closed meat shop he once beggared in.
“Lots of places.”
That settled it.
Yajirobe did not argue again. Instead, he walked over to the corner of the room, in hopes that Harotu would leave. He just wanted a peaceful night to himself, without all the others around asking questions, making him do this or that, or just talking for no reason. That was the worst. Talking for no reason at all, like right now. It made him so mad.
“You aren’t even going into town, so why bring it up?” Yajirobe said, heatedly.
“I really will, but not alone… that would be pretty lame.”
“So get Brian or that other kid to go with you.”
“Get me to go where?” said a new voice, opening the door as he talked.
Oh kami, Brian was awake now. The whole night was ruined. Yajirobe barely hid his scowl from them. He genuinely hated this inane social way of doing things.
“Oh, Yajirobe and I were just talking about going into the city tonight. You know, we couldn’t sleep and all.”
Like HFIL he was, Yajirobe thought fiercely.
“Oh, really? What are you doing there?”
Harotu and Brian worked out the details before Yajirobe’s horrified eyes. Even the Nameless Child 2 woke up and began helping them with what to do. At first, they wanted to go and try get into a movie for free. Then, they wanted to get something to eat. Then, they wanted to go visit Harotu’s family. Yajirobe felt the three zeni in his pocket and was ashamed that if he was ever forced to go with them, he would not have the money to pay for anything. It was something, however, that he could never bring up.
Then, the three continued their planning and they came to the conclusion they wanted to go back to the place they stole Blue’s hat. Then, they mentioned stealing a car as a way to get there faster.
And that moment was the singular electric jolt that was needed to get Yajirobe involved. If there was one cardinal fault to his anti-personality, it was his obsession, almost drug-like high that came with stealing and driving cars.
“I’ll steal a car,” Yajirobe chipped in, causing the others to stop their brainstorming and look at him.
“Really, you know how?” asked Harotu, with wonder.
“Yeah, I do it all the time.”
And he had never even been caught before. Yajirobe would show these simpleminded children how it was done.
They made their way up the now familiar path to the city. It was probably 2 am, but they were all awake. The mere thought of sneaking out and doing something on their own had propelled them into an anxious, adrenaline-fueled state of recklessness and poor judgment.
They found an old squatter, a rusting car, just inside the gate, and Yajirobe began his magic. Playing the part of professor was something new, but not altogether bad, and as he showed them crossing the wires and jump-starting the hovercar with a simple click, they admired him mightily. The three piled in behind Yajirobe, and he began driving. For Yajirobe had driven a car before, even though he was only fourteen, and he considered himself better at it than almost any legal driver.
They went off, cackling, laughing, and making a riot of themselves, down the street. Surprisingly, the streets were not abandoned; there were people out and about, even this late at night. Nevertheless, Yajirobe did not slow down; instead, he sped up. His logic to this doing was simple – the faster he got there, the less people he’d run over.
By the time they had gotten to the town center, Yajirobe was dripping with sweat. Not only had he managed to avoid hitting anyone (as people were generally able to scream and run out of the way in time), but he avoided any cops as well. With only three zeni to his name, he would not have been able to pay a ticket. Not to mention explaining why he was driving a stolen car.
Yajirobe came into the center as if he was an ice skater on an oil slick. It didn’t help that the other three were nonchalantly singing and banging about behind him. They all had really bad voices. But Yajirobe careened, nonetheless, forward. He quickly applied the brake, then the emergency brake, but it was no use. The momentum gained previously had done too much damage to be rectified by pressing a single button. The car was out of control; Yajirobe was simply a front seat onlooker, literally.
The car slammed itself into a tent, flipping over several times, before bringing down the walls. Upon hitting a large, upright black box, the car stopped and whiplashed the boys into submission. It was upside down, as Yajirobe soon realized. His door was up against the point of impact, so he shoved through the seatbelt, pushing Harotu, who was sitting next to him, out his own door. They had been cut by the broken glass, all of them had. At least no one was singing any more. Well, that was a lie. Because when Yajirobe and Harotu stumbled out of the flipped car, they heard a singer. And as Yajirobe had thought the children to be poor in quality and timbre, he was not prepared for this disharmonic onslaught to hit his ears.
“Your world is my world!” it said, before stopping. Then a sound came from the giant upright box – a banging of sorts, which caused karaoke music to come out again. When it did, the singer resumed, “And my fight is your – no! Come back on!”
The sound went off again. Evidently, a car crashing into a karaoke machine can damage it pretty bad. Behind Yajirobe, the two other boys came crawling out of the car, coughing up blood and looking quite dazed. But even when they heard the singing, they became intensely curious. The four limped forward, and around the machine to see who this phantom singer could be.
The machine briefly came on again, and the singer continued, “My breath is your breath! And your heaaaaaaaaaaart!”
Yajirobe had never heard such bad music in his life. The sound went off again, and they heard a distinctively varying set of curse words follow. Then, they came around and saw who it was. General Blue, the man who had caused so much mental anguish to this lot previously, was standing there, making a fool of himself.
The general grew impatient at his faulty music device. He ripped out his pistol, and fired four shots into machine.
It gave a few mechanical chirps, but nothing else.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaah! Stupid machine!”
A few of his soldiers comforted the man, telling him all would be okay. They would find another karaoke machine, yes they would.
“Don’t worry even if things end up a bit too heavy, sir. It’ll be all right,” one soldier said.
“Yes, yes you are right. It’s just a machine, I…”
Blue turned his moist eyes to the four bloody boys standing in front of him. A mixture of emotions rippled over his face. Seeing what had happened to his music – fully the responsibility of the car which had just crashed into it – not to mention remembering these children from their days of sedition against his mantle of power. He had been made a fool once by them, and here he was again being pulled into the familiar fold. Not this time.
Blue did not shout, he did not cry, he did not speak. He sneered a hideous feint of reprisal and aimed his pistol at the four boys. And none of them were in any condition to beg or run.
Launch should have been in a better mood, considering she had just single handedly accomplished Makare’s goal of exterminating the Iboinoshishi Samurai School. But the Red Ribbon army was in town. She had had various amounts of experience with them before. Indeed, they had even hired her once for a recon mission. But the soldiers here were obviously not busy with any mission as they were just lounging around, creating pandemonium for all the locals. Launch included herself in the category of the deeply disturbed, as she could not even call Makare because of how loud they were.
Launch would have called Makare as soon as the op had finished, but it being so far away from her position, and being of such great magnitude, she had erred on the side of caution, and inspected the fallen bridge herself. Not finding any bodies, yet finding plenty of blood had fully convinced her. Now she was back from that and ready to give the good news. She took out her phone and began dialing.
She happened upon a street and took a left, walking down the adjacent sidewalk. She began dialing up Makare. There was a single man singing ahead of her – and he was quite repulsive – but Launch liked this song. Instead of finishing the phone number, she began humming and singing along.
“When I met you girl, my heart went knock knock… Now them butterflies in my stomach won’t stop stop…”
And then a hovercar came screeching into view. Launch ducked into a side alley and heard the calamity of the wreckage. The music abruptly stopped, and smoke filled the air. She coughed and winced as she peeked her head around the wall to see what had happened. No bodies anywhere, no general panic. These soldiers were too much. Nothing phased them.
Launched fixed the strap to her sniper rifle on her back, and went back into the alley. At least with the music stopped, she could call now. And call she did. Makare was notoriously bad at answering his phone, and often times Launch would have to either call him again four to five times, or just leave a message. He wouldn’t take any time away from his all-important meditation, even for something of this gravity. So, she left him a message.
“I’ve killed all them like you said. Five kids and one man. I better see that money in my account tonight,” she said swiftly, then hung up the phone.
She then gathered herself up and walked out, trenchantly satisfied. The car was still smoking, and the karaoke machine was still broken. Now, there were four boys standing in front of the wreckage, unmoving, facing away. They were all as solicitous as they were injured. Launch stopped, her heart skipping a beat. No, these were not just any four kids. She knew the fat one from when she almost shot him a few days ago.
“What? You can’t be serious. They’re alive?!”
Launch flushed with a combination of anger and embarrassment. She never promised a lie. If Makare got her message, and these kids got away, she’d have lost more than just the money for her bullets. Pride was a hefty commodity which she could not afford to be lost.
Launch un-shouldered her sniper, and quick-sighted at the boys. At this range, only a few dozen feet, she wouldn’t need calibration. She dropped to her knees. This would have to be quick. If the soldiers saw her aiming a weapon in their general vicinity, they would react poorly.
Before she could fire her shot, a gunshot opposite her rang off. Immediately, she suspected the shot to be at her and rolled away into cover. When no additional shots followed up, she came back out and looked through her sight at what happened.
One boy was on the ground, dead, blood pooling rapidly around the head. The other three were already running away. Damnit, she couldn’t let them get away. Launch got on her feet, and slugged forward, her expensive rifle swinging dangerously in her hands.
She caught up to one of the boys easily. He was a skinny boy with dirty blonde hair. She slammed the butt of her rifle into his face, but he ducked, causing Launch to fling herself forward helplessly. As she hit the ground, he came back at her, kicking her in the side of the head. Launch growled angrily, and stood up. She abandoned her rifle for a knife. Looking around for the boy, she held the murderous device in her hand. She was going to get him.
Then a second shot went off. Launch desperately looked about for which boy was dead now. Only no boy was dead. No boy was shot. It was Launch who was shot. She gasped sharply, falling to her knees and dropping her knife. Blood flowed out of her shoulder. She felt none of it. Clearly, she was slipping into shock. No, she couldn’t leave herself like this. The soldiers or the police would kill her. She had to get away.
Launch crawled forward, grasping her shoulder in one hand and her sniper rifle in the other, when she saw a man, followed by his guards run past her. That was who shot her. That was who needed to die. Though she was light headed, Launch could work her hands properly enough. She lay in her blood, if that could hamper her; the sniper rifle came upright, and fired.
Yajirobe felt as if he was suspended in glass. Blue being here again… no this was impossible. Of all the unlucky things in his life, this was the worst, and this would most surely cost him the most. Blue had a vengeful face that threw out the window any chance of pleading. It was just a matter of if he missed.
Yajirobe’s suspension was shattered like the glass he felt he was in, and deep shards cut into his mind and courage. Blood splattered across his face as he and others screamed. He could not hear his voice or anything at all, except the ringing of the gunshot. Immediately, he turned and ran.
He was not sure if more shots rang off, but it felt like they were nipping at his heels. The blood that was all over him now was not even his own, and he could not discern any actual wounds he possessed from his numb body. Yajirobe skidded around a corner, and went into a store. He flopped over himself as he ran into an aisle, cutting his face on it. He stood up again, and looked around. Harotu was with him. Evidently, neither was dead, and they just sat there, hiding behind an aisle of food product, waiting for the soldiers and Blue to not find him.
Neither could talk. Surely someone was dead, but if it was Nameless Child 2 or Brian, they knew not. Pedestrians looked on at these two bloody boys with scared and frightful faces. Some came to aid, asking what they could do to help. But there was nothing to be done. Yajirobe shivered. He didn’t know about Harotu, but for him, he was too scared to cry.
That last boy, the one with the white shirt, ran just out of sight. As Blue ran after him, shooting his pistol, he heard two loud cracks behind him. His two men were thrown forward, bloody and dead. He turned around, puzzled at what could possibly be against him at this hour. There was a woman, one whom he had accidentally shot moments earlier, and she was on the ground. But she had a rifle in her hands, which was smoking. Blue growled furiously at his oversight not to see her as a threat when he had originally ran past. Now he would end her.
Blue shot at her and missed completely. He went to shoot again, but found his magazine empty. Before he could reload, she shot at him. He ducked, dropping his gun, and rolled toward her. Before she could move the sniper to aim again, he ran right to her, kicking her across the face, sending her flying back. He went to grab her weapon, in order to kill her, but she was surprisingly able to attack back.
Launch jumped up and punched Blue in the gut. He tried kicking her away, but she easily sidestepped, ramming her elbow down on his exposed thigh. Blue cried out in pain, then tackled her. The two rolled back, trading dominance over and over again.
“Foolish woman! Don’t touch me!” Blue sputtered. He grimaced, before touching her throat with his bare hands. To think, such a sickening gender existed, and that here he was forced to touch it. He was nauseous. This indecision, however, gave Launch ample room to counter. She interlocked hands with the general, pushing him against the asphalt inexorably. He pushed himself off Launch, giving the two enough time to stand up. Panting hard, Blue didn’t realize that his folly in not pursuing was in the fact that Launch was still armed.
Launch unhooked her snub pistol from the back of her belt and aimed it at Blue. Blue looked up just in time to see the woman shooting at him. He put his hands up in defense, blocking most of the feeble bullets with his body armor. Only once was he nicked, and even then it was just a flesh wound.
Launch abandoned her useless pistol, throwing it aside. She held her wounded shoulder gingerly as she circled Blue. Blue knew that if he fought her again in hand-to-hand, he would surely win. She had two points to her disfavor; one being her wounded arm; the other being that she was clearly an inferior woman.
Blue’s blind misogyny aside, he was careful to attack her right away. She could have more tricks he did not know of. But before he could strategize any duplicitous way of gaining victory, Launch had done something herself. Swinging a chair from a nearby restaurant (which we can all guess had tables outside), she threw it at Blue. He was not expecting this kind of thing from a woman, and thus had left himself unprotected. The splinters landed all over him, cutting and spearing him. He screamed out with rage. This was it.
Blue charged Launch as she readied another thing to throw at him. This time, a ketchup bottle of hard glass struck him in the face, breaking his nose instantly. He was knocked dizzy, stopped, and let Launch, well, launch herself at him. He barely understood what was going on when he hit the hard ground with the back of his head and she wrapped her contaminated woman-hands around his throat. He flipped over, and rolled into a table, but Launch was the more conscious.
She continued choking him as he just sat there gagging about like a suffocating fish. Where his other soldiers were, he couldn’t guess. But Blue knew if he ever got out of this, they would all be executed personally by him for letting him be murdered by a woman. He tried kicking at her, but he just hit another table, causing it to flip over. The contents flew off, hit the two fighters, and covered them in salt and pepper.
Blue couldn’t see or hear or think. He gasped free, suddenly, as Launch had let go for unknown reasons. He stumbled away, trying to get on his feet, when he looked back. He saw no blonde-haired woman about. The pedestrians were all unmoving and afraid, be it this black-haired man, or that blue-haired woman. He had no idea what had happened, where she had gone, or why he was alive. He could have been unconscious for several minutes for all he knew.
Blue still saw stars in front of his waking eyes, no matter how many times he tried to blink them away. He had won, though. He did not know how, but he had beaten that woman. Served her right.
Blue walked away from the wreckage, over the dead body of Nameless Child 2, not remembering how this whole fiasco had even started.
“No!! Oh, no!! No!!” Naigo bellowed with the rage of all those who rage at things which are rage-worthy.
He stood, alone, inside the mountain. This was the place of his training, where queer solipsist monks had trained him in the art of ki control and manipulation. Surely, he was just supposed to get another lesson. In vain was it, really. For what lay around him were the bodies of the monks. Dead. Shot. Bloodied. No survivors.
Naigo bellowed again, throwing his boot at the far wall. Seething with fright (at what to do now?) and the hatred of Daniel for betraying him so, he could do only one thing: call Makare. It was a good thing he knew how to work a phone.
“We have a problem.”
“Really? I just got a message from Launch that was quite surprising. Although, further efforts to contact her have proved–”
“No, you fool! Not Iboinoshishi! Me! My monks! They’re dead! Daniel did it!” Naigo spit. “All of them are just here… dead!”
“No survivors?” asked Makare, unconcerned.
“Would I call if I had survivors?!” Naigo screamed, echoing his voice threefold in the dank cave.
“No, obviously not.”
“What do we do?!”
“How close were you to mastering your ki? Percentage-wise.”
“About halfway,” Naigo said, slower, calming down.
“Good. You know what it is they were teaching you correct? They have it in their manuscripts?”
“You can teach yourself, can’t you? Grasping the basic concepts already, it should be easy to read what they have put down and follow it to gain enlightenment.”
Naigo didn’t respond for several seconds. His hoarse breathing continued, however, in irregular bursts.
“Is that not an option?” Makare asked.
“I can do it,” responded Naigo, simply.
“All right, good. Then we should have little trouble. I’m glad I reminded you of the records before you burnt the place down.”
Makare continued in his monotone, uncaring voice, “There is one more thing I need you to do. Even if Launch has lied to me about killing all the boys and killing Elijah, I need you to rally all of your men to the cave. We will take up camp there.”
“Why? You said we didn’t need anybody before.”
“If Daniel really ordered the killings, we will have to deal with him afterward. Besides, with the monks gone, I will simply use your men as a failsafe.”
“So what? The Daimyo could kill them all, even at once!”
“He could, but his pupils could not. Leave them to your men. Leave him to us. Do you understand?”
There was a brief pause, as Naigo spit again, “I understand.”
“I will be there soon. If there are bodies, please be sure to get rid of them before I meet you.”
With that, Makare ended the call.
“Yeah, I’ll be sure all right,” Naigo leered at the monks who could no longer hear him.
He paced about for several moments, before drawing his wakizashi. Naigo sat down on a rock, looking down at the bloody back of one of the monks. He twirled his blade casually over the dead man’s back, absentmindedly looking over the whole room. It was lit still by torches, implying this had occurred only recently. How recently could not be known. If only it had been during his training. He would have personally disemboweled any assassin Daniel had paid.
Suddenly, Naigo jabbed his wakizashi into the back of the man, spilling blood all over his hand. He crooked his hand around, swinging it into an upright motion, causing the body to spin up in the air, and land again on his blade. Naigo stood there, his hand outstretched, with a dead monk on his knife, bleeding through him.
“I’m going to eat you tonight.”
As one can surely deduce by this point, I am on neither side. Kami help me.
Today was February first, in the Age seven hundred forty-nine.
- Mogul's Whelp chapter name origin - A reference to a lord of the rings tcg card, Morgul's Whelp, which is referencing Mark, who is the 'whelp' of his rich brother, Daniel.
- Naigo's and Makare's fight was put in the story not only to develop their characters and relationship with one another, but to show that Makare is not the best swordsman. He is smart, and can often outmaneuver his opponent, but he is physically weaker than Naigo. He has better form, however.
- Obviously, Naigo hasn't been back to see the monks since the Red Ribbon Army killed them all. Otherwise, he would be positively furious.
- It's tricksy how Makare mentions Daniel - not Elijah. This furthers the confusion of the last chapter's finale. Who exactly is Daniel? It is not made clear yet, but he seems to transcend both Makare and Elijah in terms of power. At least at this moment.
- "what have you done for me lately?! Yajirobe thought" is a phrase used all the time on those stupid NFL pregame and postgame shows where commentators blabber endlessly about useless shit. Yes, I was mocking them. They always talk about quarterbacks using that phrase.
- "like a common housewife" is a comparative phrase that my friend and I use all the time. It's something we made up, and it's sort of an in-joke, I guess. The comparison can be made with anything, which is part of the inherent humor in the phrase.
- I don't really mention it much, but at this point, at the start of the fourth chapter, only Yajirobe, Harotu, Brian, and Nameless Child #2 are left. Of course Nameless has almost no role. I should mention that in all of Elijah's previous attempts at training new samurai, no group had ever survived through two missions. So when he takes them to Mark's house, he is truly doing something he's never done before.
- The description of Mark's house is inspired from Charles Dickens' various novels. In The old woman's mansion in Great Expectations comes to mind as a specific inspirer.
- Almost every emotion of Yajirobe's has to do with a grunt somehow. This continues to play upon his comparison to the warthog.
- Mark is, of course, Mr. Satan. That is his canon name. He would be a child at this time. While I never officially call him Mr. Satan in the story, he's often referred to as a devil or a demon. Additionally, this all takes place on the outskirts of the city which will later become Satan City. And finally, his older brother, Daniel, is a wrestling champion.
- “That’s good enough for me!” - this is a piece of dialogue that I had been itching to use for a while before writing Spindlerun. It's just brilliant in its mockery of tedious plot explanations. The story is long enough. No more time needs to be spent on the Daimyo explaning what he needs the barrels for. It also continues to showcase Mr. Satan's personality. He just doesn't give a fuck.
- Mark is clearly written to be annoying. My god, he is. This is specifically a build up to his encounter with Yajirobe later in the story, while they are in the city.
- Elijah brings up an important point, and it's one that I agree with. Awareness trumps all other aspects of one's capabilities. The more aware soldier will always win, even if he's weaker. This is illustrated earlier in the chapter, with Makare's fight with Naigo. He was physically inferior, yet won. It's somewhat ironic that Elijah's point is being made through Makare's actions (of course, only us, the readers, can see this). But awareness is something that is incredibly important. While everyone is born with varying levels of awareness, he primarily wants to hone their abilities. As he said a chapter ago, his training will make them all samurai. They are nothing special without his training.
- Obviously Brian is kid who has done the most research on the samurai school before he chose to join it. He knows Daniel, as mentioned in chapter one, so he's obviously discussed the school with the champ. It's important to note that this is again showing the discord between country and city names. The Daimyo noticed it immediately when he read off the names of those remained after the first day. And now Brian realizes it. I think he sees it as a good sign that the Daimyo is from the country just like him. He's probably speculated about it before, but now he knows!
- I love how subtly it comes out that Elijah stole the ball. There is an undercurrent of plot that is the power struggle of Elijah/Daniel/Makare. And it's barely mentioned, as the scene is more about the training of the boys. But any astute reader would see the connection.
- Yajirobe's ability to jump so well is specifically taken from the original Dragon Ball manga, where he was able to do such.
- Mark's screaming of "Hit him!" is a reference to lord Robert Arryn, the boy warden of the east, from the series, "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin. I was inspired particularly from the television version, where Robert said those exact words. He was a rather uncouth individual and it was a good reference because of that.
- The plot revelation that Daniel is Mark's older brother is a quiet revelation, but a good one. It essentially ties all three sides together.
- "So yeah", the phrase that Harotu uses is a hallmark of Hyper Zergling's speech.
- Yajirobe's inner rant about social conversation is basically a rant by me. I believe all of what he said.
- Using HFIL and kami was more mocking people who didn't use hell and god in their fan fictions (and thus, I start to become like them!) than anything else.
- The mention of the Zeni keeps them forever relevant within the story. As they become relevant right at the end, occasionally mentioning them keeps them from becoming a forced mechanic in the finale.
- Yajirobe's affinity for driving stolen cars is actual a random personality quirk that he had, according to the Dragon Ball Wiki, so that's why I included it; hopefully the way it was included wasn't so random.
- I believe when Yajirobe mentions that he's only fourteen (yet a good driver), this is the first mention of his age in the story. This also means that Mr. Satan must be thirteen.
- The song General Blue was singing in the third chapter is One Time by Justin Beiber. I looked up the most popular song for that day, and that was it. Never listened to it, instead using metrolyrics, so I don't know if Blue was singing it correctly, but it wouldn't be worth it to listen to the actual song to find out.
- General Blue was in this chapter mainly so he could get revenge for what happened to him in the first chapter. His continued use also made him more relevant to the plot overall. After all, if he was just mainly in the first chapter and barely involved in the second, what was the purpose of having him anyway? This scene was.
- "Yajirobe had never heard such bad music in his life." - I do not like Beiber.
- "A few of his soldiers comforted the man, telling him all would be okay. They would find another karaoke machine, yes they would. " - this line still gets me. I don't know exactly what makes it so funny.
- “Don’t worry even if things end up a bit too heavy, sir. It’ll be all right,” one soldier said. - that is a reference to "Float On" by Modest Mouse.
- Launch inspected the fallen bridge. Notably, she did not find any bodies - not even the body of Nameless Child 1, which she knew she killed. So she guessed that if she could not even find his body, then she wouldn't find the others. Clearly, they would be dead too.
- Launch is a Beiber fan in the KV universe yeah! Even in her yellow form she is. That's extraordinary.
- The kid who died was Nameless Child 2. I didn't even name him when he died. But yeah, he had to go. As could be expected, no one aside from the three main characters really mattered. Admittedly, it seems a bit early now that I'm reading back. I am surprised, myself, that I killed off or got rid of everyone except for the three boys, Haruto, Brian, and Yajirobe before the end of the third chapter.
- Blue accidentally shot Launch. Should he have not shot her, perhaps she would have killed some of the students.
- Yajirobe cutting his face on the aisle is a reference to me doing that at the age of four. This is the same story that I told in the opening quip of the Prince Vegeta Saga of Dragon Ball Z: The Forgotten.
- Blue freaking out over touching and being touched by a woman plays up his actions in Dragon Ball, where he acted much the same. While most homosexuals don't seem to be this misogynistic, Blue is a Nazi. So that explains everything.
- Blue versus Launch is a very unique fight. I assume that without Blue using his telekinesis, he'd be about even with her yellow-hair form.
- The snub pistol was based off of the same-named pistol in the Gears of War series.
- "Only once was he nicked, and even then it was just a flesh wound. " is a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- "Blue still saw stars in front of his waking eyes" - that is a reference to one of Frodo's quotes from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
- Naigo's dialogue clearly differentiates Daniel from the samurai.
- Naigo is a cannibal - that is one of the aspects of what makes him a unique villain. So yes, he does eat at least one of the monks. I doubt he ate many more, as he wouldn't be able to manage that much, and the bodies would spoil after a day or so anyway.
- Clearly, the ending shows what any astute reader should know by now. The power struggle is a three-way. And Daniel is on neither side. It makes it, at least, a bit more interesting. The tired dynamic of good versus evil is not present here in this story.
Chapter 4: I Love The Monkey Head
Appliances have gone berserk. I cannot keep up. Treading on people’s toes… It’s all their fault, really. Makare is going to kill me (if he finds out), and Elijah is watching over my little brother, Mark. Not to mention, someone stole my ball. Well, they should know better. Both of them should. These samurai need me more than I need them. I am no ally to them. They need me.
I make sure no one is around while I do this. If that brute Naigo finds me, I’m dead. Simple as that. I can’t let this go through, however. Without some assurance, without some backup plan, I am a fool. I place another charge on the stalactite to my left. Yeah, I’m in the cave I ordered General Blue to kill a handful of monks. I don’t know where they went, but the bodies aren’t here right now. Lucky for me.
I have coated all of the explosives in a thin veil of dirt to hide them from sight. I’m sure no one will see them. There are twenty-eight in total, and all are in place. If I activate them, they will collapse this cavern and kill Makare, Naigo, and all their men. Then, I roll over and carefully creep out from behind the rocks. I make sure none of them are looking – and they aren’t. There are only a few stragglers off on the other side, and it looks like they are still putting up camp. Good thing I got here before the main bunch did.
I carefully crawl out of the opening, and stumble back onto the trail. Igaron Mountain is a beautiful place, really. I’m sure I’d like it more if my twisted ankle wasn’t still hurting like a badger in a beehive.
My understanding with Makare is simple: I give him money, he doesn’t destroy my winery. He doesn’t kill my brother Mark. He leaves us out of the land squabble. Really, that sounds worse than it is. Without my resources, he couldn’t pull of any sort of attack on the Academy anyway, but I’m still worried he will break under the pressure and come after me.
Elijah is more difficult for numerous reasons. One, he’s not as bloodthirsty as Makare. I don’t think he cares about anything. His parents owned our land before us, so he has always retained an interest in my dealings. Of course, when I found a small orange ball in the house, he was quick to request it, but I never gave it to him. Now it’s gone.
The monks are dead. I ordered it. If only they had killed Naigo too, that would have been really special. That crazed monk-samurai-whatever is too unstable for me. If he somehow learned what he said he was going to… well, that’s why I’m here. Once he gets out of control, I press my button, give the voice command, and the explosives go off. Ideally, all of them will be in there when it happens, but if not, I have other ways to finish them off. Too bad the Red Ribbon soldiers couldn’t stay around. Blue gave me notice that they needed to leave on a separate assignment to find some Dragon Balls. Whatever those are.
As I walk down the mountain, careful not to trip on my bad leg, I look out over Orange Star City. A long, uninterrupted section of smoking grey is manifesting itself over the northern sector. I sigh. I don’t know what the good General is up to. At the very least, the commotion is nowhere near my house.
The mayhem and paranoia that accompanies the army makes me to be happy that I live in the town center. Wherever the army goes, they will bring some type of drama with them. That can be assured. I know it from personal experience. Last time the Red Ribbon was near my house, and some kids broke onto my property and stole some fruit from my trees.
Snot-nosed little punks.
There was a fire creeping up, ensnaring the paper with its brightness. In no more than a moment, the dead, black piece of paper fell to the ground, and what ash remained of it smoldered over itself. It fell into a pile of likewise ash, but much of what already lay was quite cold.
The lighter sparked again, sending another burst of flame into a thus un-tampered with piece of paper, and the cycle began anew.
Harotu was sitting inside a building, though to call it that anymore would be an overstatement. The windows were shattered, and the door was long missing. Inside, the aisles of food and parcels were thrown about; several rows had collapsed in on themselves, and there was a white dust coating all of it. Harotu was pinned up against the back of a fallen row of canned food, peeling pieces of paper off and setting them on fire with his own lighter. He bowed his head as a little more of the ceiling caved in above him.
There were a few other refugees inside, namely the shop owner himself, but they kept to the far wall. Yajirobe was sleeping, covered in debris, in the far corner. Only Harotu seemed to be conscious. He glanced over at his fellow samurai-wannabe, then threw a can of soup at him. Yajirobe grunted awake, and scowled over at him.
“They’re gone. We can go,” Harotu replied.
“Yeah, I’m not going anywhere,” Yajirobe said, gruffly. He rolled over, his back facing Harotu, and did not speak again.
Harotu hopped up, pulled his grey hoodie over his face – nestling him into a chelonian state – and ventured out into the streets. Though it was, as previously said, only half past one, the district was silent. There were none out in the open, except those who were lying dead, bleeding long lines into the sewer bars. Harotu had not, at first, deemed the damage to be so severe – he had thought Blue’s tantrum was local. But not like this. This was bad. In front of him, as he squinted his eyes out of irritation of the floating dust, Harotu saw, clearly, the gaping maw of destruction lent itself not only to a small section of just outside the shop, but perhaps a third of the entire city.
Jagged gash marks had torn through the buildings in diagonally straight lines. Only, it hadn’t been from something as non-piercing as bullets, but it was full-on artillery that had to have been used. Nothing over two stories was even standing, and that which was was barely in as good condition as the shop he had just wandered out of. Blue and the army were gone. There was no trace of their uniforms. Harotu had seen the insecurity in Blue’s eyes last night. The only reason he would have done this would be to show his soldiers that he was still worthy of being their leader. Or maybe not.
Harotu felt his lighter again while he walked. The dust that littered the air, like some time-encapsulated bit of flower thrown about, made him feel cut off from that which was around him. The amount of it was enough to block out the sun, so it was like night while Harotu walked further. And it was barren, the city was. Not a single living person had he come upon. Had he not seen with his waking eyes Yajirobe and the huddled masses of peasant families, he would have thought this place cleanly exterminated.
More dead lay before him, unattended to, like the sultry remains of a popsicle long forgotten. Harotu stopped here, unshouldering his backpack and popping open the zipper before pulling out a hook-shaped object. He ran his nimble fingers over it, feeling the grooved base for the string. Upon finding it, he pulled the lighter out of his pocket. Pushing it up against the string, Harotu clicked it open, sparking up a flame, and igniting the string. But he did not dare let it go just yet. The timer of a regular shell, such as the one he had in his hand, had a duration of over thirty seconds. Simply throwing it away would ruin the whole point of what he was doing. He needed to get his mind off of the death in this city, and there was no better way than to indulge in his pyromania. There was no better way to vent.
There was still time. Long years of messing with fireworks had taught him well.
Having carefully counted down the seconds before the firework went off, Harotu flung it at a broken window. Then, it burst in a brilliant flash of red. It echoed down the streets several times and for a moment he forgot everything. Then the streets once again went silent. No doubt the surviving citizens around would think this as no more than another bomb.
There was, before the debris of Harotu’s firework had even touched the ground, a noise of movement to the boy’s left, causing him to lose track of the falling remnants. Spinning around, he saw someone pushing their way out of a pile of refuse.
That figure was dazed, sullen-faced, and covered in grime. He stumbled out of the shambling door that had thus prior been his place of refuge. His dirty blonde hair was sticking up in all directions, his white shirt was torn, his elbows were red with dried blood, but there was no mistaking – at least to the ever perceptive Harotu – that this was Brian. He was alive. Why he was here, so far away from where Harotu and Yajirobe had holed up, was not as clear. There were two dead Red Ribbon soldiers at Brian’s feet, and they were the only two Harotu had seen killed. It would be too awkward to bring it up, though.
Brian made a calm approach toward Harotu, but quickly abandoned any sort of communication. He would not so much even look at Harotu. Brian did do one thing; he held out his hand, palm up, toward Harotu and spoke a broken, cracked sentence:
“Give me one.”
Harotu smirked, and pulled another shell out of his backpack.
It was midday before Yajirobe was conscious. His stomach was grumbling again, putting him in a freshly foul mood as he awoke. Sitting up, he was quickly reminded where he was – the half destroyed grocery store. He was surprised to see Harotu was back, for after his departure prior, Yajirobe was not in the mood to speak with him again. Nevertheless, this being a grocery store meant there were ample amounts of food around. The owners wouldn’t mind if Yajirobe took a few things.
Upon seeing Yajirobe moving, Harotu slid off the far table and ran over.
“So yeah, we were thinking it was time to leave now.”
“Back to the Academy?” Yajirobe asked.
“Yeah. It’s going to take a while, so we better start now.”
Yajirobe pocketed a few bags of chips before continuing. “We need breaktist first.”
“Are you serious?!” Yajirobe began, winding himself up into kami knows what. “Breaktist is the most important meal of the day. Figures some stupid kid like you wouldn’t know a thing about it.”
“You mean breakfast…” said Harotu, hiding a laugh.
“That’s what I said,” Yajirobe mumbled, turning a bit red.
“Alright, we’ll get some food first. You have money, right?”
Yajirobe had three zeni to his name. Instinctively, he reached in his pocket, where he always kept them and found the precious coins to be undisturbed. He looked back and nodded to answer Harotu. He only hoped whatever they were getting to eat wouldn’t cost more than that.
They gathered up Brian and walked out. They didn’t speak about last night. Harotu wore his hoodie. Brian stumbled along, looking at the ground, and as vacantly as ever. And Yajirobe led them forth, as he ever would.
By the corner of Tanner Street, on the holding property of a relinquished weapons depot, now stood a two story hobnob diner. As any sane mind could tell, the owner of this fine establishment was clearly foreign – or at least lost in the past, as the building’s bright neon lights (of enthusiastic lunchtime deals of which there were no comparison!), its sparkling pink paint, and its wide-windowed walls which offered many a glimpse inside were not only alien to the normally reserved people of this city, but also positively bizarre. Compared to the drably blue coloured buildings around it, which were as unassuming as they were imposing, it should come as no surprise that the three wandering boys chose this place to eat.
Yajirobe ordered the waitress to give them a booth. He was not sure if Harotu was homeless, like himself, or if he had never been to a restaurant. But Yajirobe made it explicitly clear that he would dine only at a booth. And the waitress happily obliged, and led them further in, to the back of the first floor, and to an otherwise unoccupied area. Yajirobe was already on good terms with her for this.
After they had gotten their menus, and looked over what to get, Yajirobe realized the brevity of his situation. Seeing these prices, there was nothing he could buy with three zeni. He made several quick glances over to the other two to see if they were similarly distressed. Harotu appeared not, but his squinting eyes and slack jaw rarely gave any emotional tell. Brian had not so much as opened his menu; instead he had his head down on the table, eyes closed.
Yajirobe was not a very proud person, nor was he inclined for arrogance. Still, asking either of them for money to eat was out of the question. He looked back down at the menu. He was starving. It wouldn’t be right to go hungry. His ears were getting hot and his neck began to sweat. There was simply no way of getting around it. He would have to ask one of them.
The waitress returned at that most inopportune moment, and Yajirobe was cut off from making the embarrassing request. She smiled at them with that I’m-so-happy-even-I-can’t- believe-it type of look before asking their orders. Harotu’s was simply staggering. He named plate after plate of food, and by the end of it, Yajirobe was sure he’d spent over a thousand zeni. No way he had that much. Well two could play at that game. Yajirobe ordered a full ham, honey glazed, and figured if Harotu could do overspend, so could he. This was assuming they were going to pay at all. Brian shook his head solemnly when the waitress asked him for anything. Then, she left, with that same sickly smile upon her face.
“Do you actually have that kind of money?” Yajirobe grunted out to Harotu as soon as she was gone. His voice was a little too curious.
“Of course not, but I’m hungry. Why? Do you?”
Yajirobe slit his teeth, “No way, man.”
Harotu nodded, “Then we’ll bail after. No big deal.”
Yajirobe turned to respond to the boy next to him, when he caught a look at a photo hanging from the wall. This diner had many like it; most were in black and white, but this one was different. It was in color, but more importantly Yajirobe knew the man. He had seen him before. The curly red hair and devilish grin were unmistakable. He was shirtless, and posing for the picture, showing off his sharp muscles. His hands were covered in boxing gloves. He knew this man from somewhere.
Yajirobe had forgotten what he and Harotu were discussing.
Within minutes, Yajirobe snapped out of his pondering. Several employees had to be called to carry all of the food the two boys had ordered. And whilst gormandizing all of it with little reprieve, Yajirobe saw his waiter come to check on them.
“Is everything going all right?” she asked.
Yajirobe dropped his fork and pointed a fat finger to the picture to his right, “Who is he?”
She fluttered for a moment, “Uh, oh that’s Daniel Parroda. He’s the regional lightweight boxing champion.”
Yajirobe breathed in sharply. He remembered. This was the man Yajirobe had encountered in the street. He was the man who had given Yajirobe the flyer for the Samurai School. He was the very same man who Yajirobe had made trip and cry. And even his last name was vaguely familiar.
“Daniel Parroda. That name’s familiar.”
Harotu shook his head, “Never heard of him.”
“We took that fruit from his yard when we stole the hat,” Brian replied, muffled by his arms over his face. “My mother knew him too; she used to take me to his house for dinner.”
Yajirobe could not grasp why this man, this champion boxer had been out throwing papers around to people in the streets. And Brian knew this man already. There was something wrong here, but there wasn’t time to deal with it.
The waitress returned and asked for the bill, swiftly returning the anxiety and embarrassment to both Yajirobe and Harotu. They didn’t have the money to pay. However, just as they were stuttering out explanations, Brian raised his hand. In it, he held a check: for in his sloppy handwritting, Brian had scrawled an amount for over 11,000 zeni. That was more than Yajirobe and Harotu had spent together, though they breathed not a word about it. And the waitress took it, and there was nothing said.
Yajirobe couldn’t so much as look at Brian. Why did he have to go and do that to Yajirobe? Brian could have told them he was paying, not just come up with it at the last moment, when the other two had not the money in the first place. However, Brian was now sitting up and looking about. His eyes were trained on something, and for a few seconds he stared at it, unblinking. And then what color remained in his face, drained instantly.
“There are some guys watching us,” he whispered in a hoarse voice.
“What?” Haruto responded too quickly.
“To the left,” Brian nodded.
They all looked, and saw them. Where prior this area of the diner had been utterly vacant save for their presence, several others had slid in and taken seats near them. Clearly, this was the first moment Yajirobe had noticed.
The two watching were men of scant age with swarthy, sneering faces. They left their eyes bare to watch the boys, even as the students stared back. They did not seem to ever look away. Coupled with their collective filth, and dark clothing, these two held an ominous presence.
“Let’s get out of here,” Yajirobe said.
“What, do you think they’re dangerous?” Harotu asked again.
“Of course they are,” Brian wheezed. “They’re probably soldiers.”
“They don’t look like soldiers–”
“Shut up Harotu!” Brian whispered, even more agitated now. “We have to go!”
Yajirobe placed his eyes firmly on these two men. They had clearly been watching him for a reason, and even now they were staring with empty, vapid eyes.
“Then I’m going first. Just wait a few seconds before following,” he said with all the authority he could muster.
Then, Yajirobe inched himself out of the booth. He was careful to not look again at the men, instead focusing his eyes on the less-conspicuous waitress standing to their left. Neither moved as he did so, which made Yajirobe sigh in relief.
Harotu stayed put for a few seconds after Yajirobe had left, fumbling with the packages in his bag. He did not attempt speaking to Brian again, and there was no need. The dull, lightless look in Brian’s face was no more enticing toward conversation than a rugby tournament to ballerina.
After waiting the specified time, Harotu quickly slouched his way out.
At time, the host of three boys tarried onward through the twisted remnants of the city, and for a while they felt not the cunning eyes of their previous pursuers; but yet, they were not alone. On the forbearing of a particular sidewalk, which lay itself in urbicolous disarray, there appeared the shadow of a figure behind them. It was only there for a moment, and then it disappeared again. The three could only glimpse at him, barely seeing flashes of flesh between buildings. What they could tell was it was only one tracker this time; much quicker; much louder. And Yajirobe became annoyed at himself for not bringing any defenses with him. The bokkens, their only weapons, had been carelessly left in their dormitory. Were this pursuer filled with evil intent, they had little stopping power against him.
Reconnoiters were not often forgotten or diminished. To Yajirobe, this other being had now become more than a simple bother, and he detested the unwanted attention. Brian walked but did not talk, and Harotu was silent as well. It was time again to show these two his abilities. How they would be shown, he already knew.
Around the second sharp corner from Pallard Street, Yajirobe grabbed the two boys by their shirts and thrust them in front of him, pointing and whispering them into the open door of a disheveled room. Neither questioned and both obeyed. He followed them in immediately, darting his eyes around for anything he could grab.
And then, like slime oozes out of dark places, the figure they had caught trailing them came into view. Yajirobe noticed immediately who it was – the wily-faced rascal, that voracious boy at the old winery. Mark. He looked no older than Brian, but perhaps a year younger than Yajirobe. He was small, but stout, his wide shoulders and broad chin already forming into shapes well beyond the maturity of the present company. He walked with an impish sense of bravado, as if his mind held more confidence than his body could realize. And he had a bold and disastrous look upon his face; one that could only mean he was spoiling for a part in this.
Yajirobe threw himself back to the street, bolting at Mark. He had no weapon, but he was bigger. In Yajirobe’s experience, that meant fists would do. The boy had paused a moment, as not seeing the three off in the distance had given him directional vertigo. He did not even see a blundering samurai-wannabe approach him, with fists swinging.
Mark was knocked onto the ground in an instant, and so sudden was his shock, so paralyzing his fear, he could not move. But there was no mercy. Not only was this for the tortuous company he had forced Yajirobe to endure today, but for when they had gone to his home and he had insisted to tag along for no reason other than mentally pain them. Yajirobe felt no love lost as he stood over the swiftly bruising boy. Despite the master holding the utmost respect for this little fiend, that respect had not bled over to his students.
Harotu wandered out slowly. “Isn’t that the kid who was following us around before? And he’s doing it again…” he said in disbelief. “I thought he was one of those soldiers coming to kill us.”
“He’s not that important,” Yajirobe huffed, still throwing punches on the defenseless kid.
“Well, what are we doing with him?”
“Get one of your firecrackers out and we’ll set it off on him or something.”
“Whoa, Yajirobe. That’s dangerous.”
“So what?” he responded fiercely.
“So… we shouldn’t do that. He could catch on fire.”
Yajirobe turned away from Harotu, even as he knew those words were truth.
The boy below them stirred out of his catatonic state with immediate lividity, “Hey, why’d you do that?” He pushed himself away from Yajirobe, wiping the blood with his hand.
“Because you were following me.”
“Following you? You must think you’re pretty special, then. I was just walking home.”
“Oh yeah, and what were you doing out here anyway? We know you live outside of the city.”
Mark smiled with a brutish grin, “I was just coming back from Karate practice. My brother was teaching today.”
“Going all the way back to that winery? That’s pretty far for someone as stupid as you.”
“No, I was going back to our house in the city! My brother’s pretty rich, so he has his own house here. I stay here on weekends while training for my Karate. My brother teaches me pretty good.”
Mark rubbed his swollen cheek. Then, he turned his eyes once again to the sturdy bloke in front of him, “Come here. I’m gonna punch you in the face. Nobody hits me and gets away with it.”
Yajirobe was genuinely taken aback, “Yeah, fight you. Listen kid, I could knock you out in one punch.”
“Then do it!”
Yajirobe’s blood boiled over. This little prat. This little, stinking prat. He would pay for those words.
There was not so much blood today. Kumo tended to the Daimyo well, and his wounds were healing. Yet it was a gunshot wound, and such things are hideous. His injury was just below the kneecap, from when Launch had mis-shot through Nameless Child 1’s skull. He never had complained about it. In fact, he was lying in his bed, his eyes closed, calmer than ever.
“They’re gone,” Kumo said, folding a new bandage over the man’s bare leg. “All of them are. I checked their beds.”
“I am sure they’re in town. They will be back in time for training.”
She raised her eyebrows, “That’s in ten minutes. Even for you, that’s optimistic.”
“Yes, maybe. Will these bandages limit my movement?” he asked.
“Yes. You won’t have nearly the amount of quickness you normally would rely on.”
“Then our training will be hampered.”
Kumo stopped wrapping up his leg. “What do you mean?”
“I never told you who shot me, did I?” he asked, playfully.
“I never asked,” she responded, coldly.
“It was a merc Makare sent after me. I thought it would be beneath him, but evidently I was wrong. Now, as for the students, we must accelerate their training. Makare will go after them as he’s gone after me. I am sure of it.”
Kumo scoffed, “What makes you sure he already hasn’t?”
“If you, Kumo, cannot find them, I am sure Makare is having an equally difficult time tracking them down. But they aren’t safe in the city. That much I know.”
Kumo shook her head. She was not playing around as her Master was. Nevertheless, she quieted down and finished her duty. When she had finished, she helped Elijah up, and, with the assistance of a servant, carried him outside. Down the hallway, which was paved with smooth tile, they set down their Master on a bench and stretched him so that he could properly meditate. Then, something caught their eyes, and they stopped.
The city, far off and pinnacled, had not been seen by either today, and now they beheld its smoking ruin rising in great columns. Kumo saw in her Master’s grey eyes worry. His calm face was gone. He finally did look like he’d been shot by a gun.
Forgoing the veritable stalemate that would otherwise have arrived given the proper amount of time, Mark, the thick-chested, if short boy charged headlong into Yajirobe. He drove himself hard, and to its force the larger boy was mostly unprepared. He braced at the last moment, lashing his elbows out in a defiant thrust against this bouldering boy. But Mark was not to be so easily thrown back. His cheek was resolute and his face calm; this time he attacked with a roll. Yajirobe jumped out of the way, though Mark was able to grab his legs. Tripping over himself, Yajirobe flipped back only to be knocked to the pavement by a spring-push.
Mark was far more sophisticated than anyone could have hoped. Nearly did he get a stranglehold position from that very move. However, Yajirobe himself was quick on his feet, and like a vicarious snake, he wove and rolled out of Mark’s grasp. His cheek was ripped open. Mark not only had the speed to evade him. He had power behind those blows. Yajirobe thought quick. He did not know this part of town, but if it was like the cesspool of his upbringing there would be one point to his advantage around here somewhere. Stalling through pained feint, Yajirobe winced and wiped the blood from his face, letting his guard down, and making sure Mark knew not to attack. Yet his eyes were not idle; he combed over the entire street for a sign of what he could do. Finding nothing, he dropped his eyes to his feet. They would have to do.
“Heh, that’s right. You’re bleedin’,” Mark touted proudly. “Come on, I’ll get your other cheek too.”
Misdirection was his goal. Importance now not lay with what was seen, but verily what remained unseen. As Yajirobe drew attention to his battered cheek, he had simultaneously dropped to a knee and untied his shoe, letting it sit loose below his foot. He poised his arm back behind his leg to avert attention, then looked up. They were about three meters apart, and at this distance, his plan was destined for disaster. He slowly began sliding his foot forward, imagining as if the streets were covered in ice – and his practice during those foul winters here had taught him that patience was the key.
“Well? Are you givin’ up, then?” Mark asked.
“Who said I was givin’ up?” Yajirobe replied, heatedly.
“Then hurry up! My brother’s waiting for me at home.”
The look on Yajirobe’s face could have torn any one of them to shreds. “So what?”
Mark’s face was cool again. “He’s a professional boxer,” he nodded. “Yeah, you think I’m tough. Just wait ‘til you meet him. He trains me.”
“I don’t think you’re tough,” Yajirobe spat. He was now a sure meter closer, though his quarry had no inkling.
“That’s what you say! My brother knows I’m the best in his class. The best he’s ever seen! I’m gonna be the next World Martial Arts Champion, you can bet on that.”
The champ continued talking for what seemed like hours. He did not notice the slowly creeping jackal in front of him. And then it was too late.
“You talk too much.”
Yajirobe thrust his foot upward, catapulting his shoe off his foot and propelling it into Mark’s face. The force of impact was tremendous, and it literally shot him back, past the street into a pile of rubble. Yajirobe had formed dogged pursuit at once, and before Mark could look up, his broken nose bloodying up his vision, Yajirobe had taken him by the neck and thrown him back to the curb. Deliriously, Mark waved his arms about with little merit and pushed up against his foe. This continued for a few moments before he gained back his full consciousness. Pausing to spit out a generous amount of blood, he stopped his flailing. The quiet set in at once, though the stifled air held in tandem; the fragile wineryboy was not ready to give in. At the same time, he had nowhere to go, and no defense to put up. The hulking mass of the samurai-to-be Yajirobe was right in front of him with a fist already raised.
Mark thrust his chin up, “Do it.”
The punch did not go through to fulfill the order; indeed, it was already in mid-swing when Mark had uttered his request. Still, he had enough time to duck out of the way, and watch as the hapless street urchin went tumbling by him. Through adrenaline, his vitality was freshly renewed. So, Mark jumped sideways, grabbing the shoe that had been thrown at him in one hand. He latched himself on the taller boy’s back like Cortshire’s manic depressive leech. With ferocity, he swung the shoe around, brought up the strings and began choking Yajirobe.
However, this did not go well with Yajirobe. If anything, it made him angrier (which is positively frightening). Actually, as soon as Mark tried his little technique, Yajirobe simply rolled over on top of him and crushed him with his weight. If only that could have been enough. The two wrested back and forth – Mark struggling to strangle his quarry relentlessly, and Yajirobe back-slamming the boy over and over again.
One final time, Mark got a good roll and was once again on top (where he deserves to be). As he began implementing his attack once again, and he felt the rumbling and sliding below him of another slam, something happened that neither of them intended.
Harotu had run up, his backpack in hand, and side-swung it into their mass. Ultimately, it hit Mark in the back of the head, knocking him forward and making him land in a pool of blood and dirt. Yajirobe let his breath out, looking up to see what had relieved him. Harotu stood there, none too happy, but offered Yajirobe a hand nonetheless.
“Really? You couldn’t just leave that kid alone?”
“Look who’s talking,” Yajirobe replied with his grumpy face.
“He was already bleeding before. Besides, you were too.”
Yajirobe shook his head and sat up. Leaving Mark, he dusted himself off before returning to the street. Harotu continued scowling and silently seething, but it was done. Mark was dealt with, even if someone didn’t like it.
As Yajirobe stepped back out in the street, he saw Brian standing in the middle, facing away from them. In Brian’s hand was the only weapon he could muster at this place; a broken shard of glass, duly picked from the nearest shattered window. Too tired to bother asking what he was doing, Yajirobe walked forward, intending to yank Brian out of place and drag him back to the Academy.
There was one problem with that plan. In front of Brian, perhaps on the other side of the block were two men. No, they were not any two men so much as they were not any men known to the group. But their faces were familiar if only for their heinous demeanor. Yajirobe stopped and stared.
Two of them there were, wild and untamed, as if they had lived their whole lives in distant squalor; their dark hair filled with grime, their dirt-spotted faces guarded by wispy beards; their gnarled teeth darkly stained, their wilted fingers hanging in trepidation; their sallow skin shining with sweat, their bare foreheads covered in mountains of warts; and in their eyes, insatiable, and terrifying, looming ever closer, was a forlorn cacophony pooling in unseated madness.
They each drew dark katanas, of which their atramentaceous blades curved like grim claws. They lowered themselves to the ground, not so much crawling, not so much running, and their pinpoint movements were almost vertigo-inducing. One had snaked left past a dumpster and disappeared. The other dropped to slithering convulsive patterns, though his face was upright and wanderless. Yajirobe and Harotu stepped back, naturally, but they had no weapons. Fatigue was rank in their bodies, and for any attempt to run, they would be overrun. Now before them, they had a predator closing in on easy prey, and yet another skulking about and unseen. Yajirobe had a weird feeling that his neck would be cut open by that one.
There was, still remaining, the question as who these men were. Neither was Red Ribbon, clearly. Only the army had taken interest in these boys, and some comfort had come with that. For even as those men had been as menacing as anything, the boys had known who they were and what they were capable of. The same could not be said today.
The man reached Brian and, wasting no time, sliced an arc upward. Brian sidestepped it, but was still grazed. He winced audibly as a quick line of blood formed on his white shirt, staining it. Yajirobe let out a yell and thrust himself forward, headfirst. He knocked the man back, and gaining position over him, squeezed the katana out of his hand. Yajirobe wrestled with him, trying to take the sword, but it was no use. The man flipped the hilt up, knocking Yajirobe under the chin, immediately rendering him unconscious. His body sagged down on the man, and the weight alone prevented him from cutting Yajirobe so soon. Brian and Harotu had charged the man too, and between kicking him in the side of the head, and smacking his face with a backpack, they had rightly forgotten he still had his sword. Rolling off the beleaguered body of Yajirobe (and there was no time to behead him quite yet!), the man arced several more slices at the boys.
Harotu’s backpack spilled open, and the outer pocket let loose all of their many pyrotechnic illegalities. And as he dove, Brian attacked from behind, but he was then yanked backward by his hair. The other man, the other predator, had now revealed himself. Clearly garnering that two on one would end in his disfavor, the man revealed himself and allowed the advantage to return to him. He held Brian by his short, dirty blonde hair on the nape of his neck and picked him up off the ground. His katana firm in his hand, the man prepared the swift execution maneuver.
Brian, seeing his own shadow in the daylight sun behind, could see every movement of this. Just as the man raised his arm, flexed his wrist, and prepared to dismember him, Brian brought his hand up, which still held a small fragment of glass, and plunged it into the man’s arm with all the force he could.
This man screamed out suddenly, dropping both Brian and his sword. Howling still, he did not notice as the small boy flipped around, sliding on his heels, and grabbed the sword. With two hands (for this was much heavier than Brian had anticipated), he poked forward, attempting to puncture the man’s neck. However, his aim was off, and blade just went below his third rib.
Seeing as katanas are hardly the go-to weapon for stabbing, this had not pierced deep. Brian became horrified as he felt how little the blade had actually gone in. He tried thrusting it again, but the man was able to stop him. He gripped the blade, and snapped it sideways, grunting only a little in displeasure as he ripped the weapon from his bones. His hand was cut up real bad from that.
“Yajirobe, wake up!” Brian screamed, for the first time snapping back to reality since last night. He backed up, kicking Yajirobe, who lay next to him, back into consciousness. The larger boy grumbled and cursed softly, but did not wake. Brian took another step back.
Behind him, Harotu had been expertly dodging the attacks of the wayward soldier. For all his worth, Harotu lacked stopping power, finishing power, but he could easily prolong these fights almost indefinitely with his agility. But, this was no game, and he was toying around only because he had no way to kill the man or get away.
“Stop!” the first man breathed out, his voice as vacuous as his blade.
He thrust the pointed edge forward in a maneuver of pure impatience – as for anyone should know stabbing with a katana is a dangerous gamble, and one that very easily could result in the breaking of the blade. He shot several attacks toward Harotu, though they all missed. The boy, seeking respite, retreated back into a blown-out wall, and searching for anything to use as a weapon, moved further in.
But with Brian, his pursuer was ever cold and undaunted. He drew a dagger from his boot and took one giant leap, placing himself within a half-meter of Brian’s chest. He smiled a splenetic smile of which there was only his victory in sight. He raised his hand and began motion for the student’s neck.
Then, the man stopped, jostling himself to the side, moaning in broken fervor, but dropping his weapon too. For as he had come unto Brian and had tried to end his life there, this man had stepped on Yajirobe. And Yajirobe, through all the power he could then gather had kicked the man, who was un-expectant to this and defenseless yet. His shin in splintering ruin, he fell. Brian quickly scooped up his dagger and pointed it at the man; and he was their prisoner.
Yajirobe sat up, and stared at the man, “Who are you?”
The man smirked, but refused to answer.
Brian threw a piece of brick at him. “Answer him!” His voice was hoarse, and he spoke in no more than a whisper.
“Hey, wasn’t there another guy around here?” Yajirobe asked, nonchalantly. He didn’t realize the lethality of their situation.
The two spun around, having forgotten about Harotu. And there they saw him, captured like a bird in a basket, held by his hair, the other predator gleefully displaying his catch. Brian stepped forward, displaying his stolen weapon. He motioned for the man to duel him. This garnered nothing more than a laugh in the standstill.
“Put him down.”
There was, then, the silence broken, and not any one of them had uttered those words. Yajirobe was once again thrust into obscure confusion as he looked around for who had said this. And then, from behind the hanging Harotu, and the wayward samurai, came another man clothed in black. In one fluid motion, he drew a small sword, which glinted for but a moment before being raised to the neck of the man, and then just as quickly going back. So quickly had this happened, that Yajirobe was not even sure it had – that was until the man dropped Harotu, and fell sideways, his head rolling cleanly off, and blood spurting and pooling about. Harotu immediately ran over to the other two boys and turned to face this person.
His head was cool, but wild. He was restrained, but agitated. He walked the thinnest line between perfect tranquility and unrelenting rage. He tread ever careful so far.
“Three little samurai. Well done. Well done. You have captured one of my men. That is no easy feat,” he said, stopping at the cornerstone. “We have not been acquainted, I think. No? Your master has mentioned me, I’m sure. After all, he would have told you I am a dangerous man. Very dangerous to samurai.”
“Well, who are you then?” Yajirobe grunted.
“I am Makare, one of the few samurai of old world. Back when we were taught properly with form and wisdom and discipline. Your master is an old friend of mine. We went to school together at the same place you now attend.”
Harotu looked once at the hostage before speaking, “What do you want with us? You’re trying to kill us… right?”
“What I want is the perversion of our old teachings eradicated. I want the Academy back, under my leadership, to teach the true way, the best way of becoming a samurai. I want this reckless endangerment gone and replaced with the evolving concept of ki.”
Yajirobe sneered, “Why don’t you just move somewhere and open your own school? Who cares if you’re here?”
“I very much care,” the man continued, “You see, our old master gave your Daimyo the position of samurai chief lightly, and Elijah is too young to appreciate it. He has wrought only squalor and distaste since then. Need I even tell you, he and the woman are the only ones even capable of wielding a sword? All others have left. Meanwhile, I command an army of men, much like the one you have behind you, and we are many. We are everywhere. This we will take back now. You three are the only living reminders of what Elijah has taken. Oh yes, he has offered classes before three times to the rabbles of the willing and over privileged alike. Each time, they have ended with only death and cowardice. You three are his only surviving test subjects. But that will end here,” he stepped forward, opening his cloak and revealing his loose scabbard, of which his blade hilt could be seen, “Don’t run now. I have wanted to kill you myself for a long while.”
“What? What?! C-c-can’t you like of-ffer us a part in your army? Y-you said we were the only surviving students, so we could be really helpful t-to you!” Harotu pleaded.
“Shut up, Harotu,” Brian whispered.
“No, my own abilities suffice for all three of yours, many times over.”
“No, please!” Harotu pleaded, “Please!”
Makare ignored him. Brian stepped forward and prepared his own attack. Yajirobe had sat up, and now seeing death before his eyes, the will to survive had overtaken him, and along with Brian, he stood against Makare. Though Harotu fell and cried and writhed in his wretchedness, Yajirobe had grabbed a shard of the broken katana at his feet. He and Brian looked at one another, Yajirobe nodding to the other to go first, and first he went.
The dagger was disarmed in a heartbeat, and Brian’s arm was left cut. Yajirobe attacked. He parried two blows, then dipped under Makare and rushed at him. Brian jumped up and did the same. But the man was no novice to these cheap tactics and withdrew himself, spinning his blade before him like a fan; and nobody would dare move forward.
Then he lowered to the stature of a panther and angled his way forward. Yajirobe saw his movements, and predicting them, jumped over the charge, landing back on his feet instantly. He pulled down, scooped up a piece of brick, then turned to throw it only to find Makare had stopped. The samurai straightened his back, facing away from them. He let out a long sigh, and let his arm fall, clinking the katana on the ground.
“You three are lucky today. But only today. I will have your corpses soon enough,” he spoke, calmly and quickly. He sighed, closing his eyes, and raising his head to the sky.
Yajirobe frowned, “What do you mea–”
A tempest came to them, then, and it formed up before their very eyes, blocking everything else from sight. Makare was shrouded in it, but he yelled mightily, and much sound came forth. The dust obscured their view. From within it, only a moment after it began, Makare’s body came flying outward, hit a slab wall, and fell, crumpled and broken. He looked much smaller now, like a child in a robe with a broken neck.
The dust settled, and before them all was Elijah, their samurai master. He wore white robes, and on his leg was soaked red. His bandages having come off in this scuffle, he now limped forward, closer to Makare. Throughout this time, Makare had not moved a muscle.
The Daimyo slowly limped forward, his elegant katana pointed up. It was the first time Yajirobe had seen his master unsheathe the noble blade. He paused with his blade tip but a centimeter from Makare’s face. Then, Makare came back to life, and looked up, his defiant eyes piercing his opponent with malice.
“You and I have our quarrel, Makare, but you will not touch my students.”
“Students?” Makare spat, “You and I were students. Taught by a real master of the art. Those over there,” he nodded to Yajirobe and the others, “are not. Your swordsmanship is unparalleled, but your philosophy is all wrong. Those three are the product of your vast inabilities.”
Elijah pushed his blade tip closer, pushing it into Makare’s cheek, “Your monks’ teachings. I know all about them. Cheap tricks for the weak. You should know better than to be deluded by them.”
Makare sneered, “One day I’ll get to you and teach you how to get to purest hell.”
He thrust his head up, cutting his chin and cheek, but ripping himself away from the blade. Elijah’s blade was pushed to the side, and before he could bring it back, Makare was on his feet, sprinting out of the city. They watched him go, but their Master held his hand up, warning them to not pursue. As if any of them had that thought in their minds.
Elijah rekindled his students by speaking first, “In light of these events, your training must be heightened. Tomorrow, we begin sword-work. I expect those of you who wish to remain to be there: 8 am, the training area. This is what you’ve been wanting, I think. Real blade use and proper dueling, and I promise it will not take long. Be there.”
Elijah turned away from them, pulling up his robes around him, when Harotu questioned him.
Harotu’s eyes were burning, and he was on his knees, holding his sore shoulder, “Sir, what are we supposed to do with him?”
Him was, of course, the surviving assassin. He had not moved all this time, especially now that a potentially lethal samurai was in his presence. His hope to go unnoticed now brought to failure, he attempted to run off, much like his commander had just done. But this time, Yajirobe and Brian were quick to hold him; they grabbed his shoulders and threw him back down.
“That is up to you,” The Daimyo replied.
“What?! How can we do anything with him?” Harotu asked. There was fear in his voice.
Elijah turned back to them, knelt down, and pulled something out of his boot. He threw it toward them, and Yajirobe caught it. It was their Master’s knife. Its ornate onyx lining was unmistakable, but even more so was its meaning. The three boys could not speak. All of their throats had run dry.
Elijah bowed to them, taking his leave, and swiftly walked off.
“Well, yeah. I’m not doing it,” Harotu said, almost too quickly. He stood up, facing the man, “Which one of you will?”
“Not me,” Brian replied, sullen-faced.
Yajirobe need not answer. He knew as soon as he had caught the blade that the responsibility was on his shoulders alone. He looked at the other two, the dagger in his hand, and shrugged as best he could. Harotu nodded, understanding him, and Brian stepped back. Both of them were not to be part of this.
“You can… you can handle it yourself, right?” Harotu said, slowly.
“Yeah,” Yajirobe grunted.
“Then let’s go,” Harotu muttered to Biney.
Brian’s head was bowed and his face dark. Before he left, he looked once toward Yajirobe, and then left. Yajirobe remained stony-faced. As soon as the two other boys had left, the man attempted to overpower Yajirobe by kicking him. Yajirobe had expected this and jumped out of the way, landing in front of the man and knocking the wind out of him with a palm to the ribs. He wasn’t so tough now that he didn’t have a katana.
“Lemme go… lemme go! I swear, I won’t hurt ya… I swear!” the man pleaded, his eyes watery and hapless, but ever watching the blade.
Yajirobe grabbed his throat. This man deserved to die. He had tried to kill Yajirobe, and should their roles be reversed, Yajirobe would already be dead. Nobody would miss him. Nobody would care. He was just another soldier. If he was let go, he would try to kill them again. He was evil. It was justified. It was right. Yajirobe put the knife up to the man’s neck and shook off his feeble defenses. Pressing the blade against the soft flesh, Yajirobe slid it, drawing blood. As soon as he did, the man howled and fought him. Yajirobe stumbled away, snatching the knife close to his chest, sure not to lose it. He looked over this man, whose neck bled.
“Please! Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!!”
“Shut up,” Yajirobe said haughtily. “Just be quiet!”
Yajirobe’s hands were trembling, though he didn’t know why. He had placed the blade to the man’s neck, and even started slicing, but he could not continue through. There was no honor to kill a defenseless man here and now. He had thought it would be easy to kill someone, but it was not nearly. This man was alive and fighting him and looking at him… Yajirobe, as weird as it sounds, could not kill someone who was watching him. It didn’t sit well. The assassin’s blood could not be on his hands. He couldn’t let it happen. Ultimately, living with himself, being a cold-blooded murder would be worse than anything this samurai could do to him. If the man was let go, he would try to kill them again. That was given. He would surely try again. Yajirobe pocketed his knife.
So be it.
At first the man did not move, for this new devilry was beyond his comprehension. Yajirobe mumbled something he could not hear, then kicked up the ground, sending debris everywhere. He put his hands in his pockets and left. Just like that. The man, bewildered, stood up, and, clutching his neck, peered around the building after the boy.
Yajirobe continued walking, but looked over his shoulder, “Don’t forget it,” he said.
The man nodded, yet Yajirobe could not see him. He turned the other way, trotting out in the opposite direction. He stepped on something rather soft as he went, though the unconscious Mark did not feel anything. Maybe he would when he woke up.
It was sunset in the Western Park. This part of town was a rare place for Yajirobe to visit. Mostly, rich parents would take their spoiled kids to play on swings and slides which were probably each more expensive than a whole car. Yajirobe was not sure if this place was normally crowded, but it was not at present. He could finally thank General Blue for one thing, and this was it. The swings were empty.
Unlike the other two, who were most likely in their Academy dorms, Yajirobe had not gone back yet. Instead, he had wandered the city and found this small hidden away piece of aristocratic society. At least there weren’t any bodies out here. Yajirobe sat down on the grass and brought out the knife. It still had some dried blood on it, which he wiped away as best he could. He ran his fingers over the blade, flipping it back and forth. His Master had wanted him to kill that man. Was that what samurais did? Were they all cold-blooded murders? He hadn’t thought killing somebody would be so hard to follow through with.
Yajirobe speared the knife into the soft dirt. He growled. No, he wasn’t weak. He wasn’t. Flustered, the samurai-in-training stood up and walked over to a nearby bench. Ordinarily, he would just sit on one of these. But he was tired. He needed this rest. There was no way he was making it back to the school tonight. He could sleep here.
However, just as he was to lay down, Yajirobe spotted on the benches spikes, and he could not sit on those. Puzzled as to why this bench was so useless, he looked around for some explanation, and found it.
There was a box on the side post of the bench, and on it read a simple note: ‘5 Zeni for 15 minutes’. Yajirobe swore under his breath and kicked the wood plank (to which he instantly regretted). These rich snobs knew no limits. This was an outrage to make him pay for a bench. At the same time, he blushed, merely thinking about it – and was glad no one could see him.
For with only three zeni to his name, this bench was far too expensive to sit on.
As they underestimate me, these samurai forget I am the reigning lightweight boxing champion. I will have my victory with or without them.
Today was February second, in the Age seven hundred forty-nine.
- I Love The Monkey Head chapter name origin - Reference to the cheat code of the same name for Age of Empires 2. This references Yajirobe's inability to kill the samurai soldier.
- The first three sentences and the last sentence of Daniel's first section in chapter four are all a reference to "Last Flowers to the Hospital" by Radiohead.
- Blue mentioning to Daniel that he needs to take his army away to find Dragon Balls is a bit of an easter egg which sets up Dragon Ball itself. Around this time in the timeline, the Red Ribbon Army began searching for the Dragon Balls (and Goku later found the soldiers and fought them, of course). Additionally, this section is rather ironic, because Daniel is also complaining about the orange ball he'd lost and he doesn't know what a Dragon Ball is.
- When Daniel sees the smoke rising, he is looking at the destruction that occured from Yajirobe hijacking a car the night before. So he's a far-off observer to that part of the story, both literally and figuratively.
- The last bit of this Daniel section shows that he is Mr. Parroda. This means that Brian knows Daniel. It also means that Daniel wasn't aware that Yajirobe and Brian were the ones who stole fruit from his tree.
- Daniel's section here explains his purpose in the story. In the previous chapters, he's been a mysterious presence, acting as an behind-the-scenes orchestrator as much as a trickster. Now, it becomes clear why he's in the story. He's literally caught in the middle of the strife between Elijah and Makare. He has to pay Makare so that samurai won't kill him. Obviously, he hasn't done anything to kill Makare quite yet - him putting explosives in Makare's camp is the first of that. He's not too brutal a guy, although he ordered the monks to be killed. I don't think he would have much faith in the army killing Naigo and Makare, despite him pining for it in the text. As to why he hasn't called up anyone specific to kill those two, he simply couldn't afford it. If they failed, he and his brother would die. And giving away some of his money was less of a risk in his eyes. Like with ordering the killing of the monks, Daniel is noteworthy for taking half-measures throughout the story. These actions propel the story further, but they do not solve anything. And this shows how ineffective Daniel is throughout the story. His character is really a study in indecisiveness.
- Harotu's scene was put in the story for two reasons. For one, introducing his lighter (and pyromaniac tendencies) would have massive plot implications later in the story. For another, this allowed for me to develop Haruto's character more. Of the three main boys, he has the least development, so a POV section was necessary to try to rectify that.
- Harotu's burning of paper is him trying to ignore (or cope) with what happened the night prior, specifically with watching the last nameless child die. Sure, it's not mentioned overtly, but he has to be feeling terrible over that.
- The state of the city, covered in white ash, was influenced by what New York City looked like after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
- I always wanted Haruto to be a pyromaniac, even from chapter 1. I believe I mentioned his lighter there. Like with making Naigo a cannibal, this personality was unique enough that it could be the focus of the character. It also shows that Harotu isn't necessarily a hero - because good guys aren't pyromaniacs!
- Launch killed the two dead Red Ribbon soldiers, not Brian. Harotu need not know that, though. This also shows that Blue doesn't have much respect for his soldiers. He probably saw those two as failures, and let them lie where they fell, not giving them a proper burial or respect.
- Brian wanted to throw fireworks because he, like Harotu, needed a way to take his mind off of what had happened.
- Yajirobe calls breakfast "breaktist". That's what he calls it in Dragon Ball, so I kept that consistent in this story.
- Yajirobe was too embarrassed to admit he had no money. So he just didn't say anything. That's the main reason why he went. Sure, the grocery store probably had some morsels of undamaged food remaining, but it had nothing that would satisfy him fully. And Yajirobe desperately needed his hunger properly satiated at that moment.
- I was mocking waitresses in general when I described the one in the story as having a "I’m-so-happy-even-I-can’t- believe-it" type of face. I cannot stand fake people like that. I know everyone's fake in public, but they really are in a league of their own. I'll give them a tip based on their service, not based on them acting phony. Goddamnit, it pisses me off.
- So Yajirobe, Harotu, and Brian are quite the hooligans. They steal a car, cause mass-destruction in the city, and now they are bailing from paying for a meal. Yet it's not that big of a deal. They are sympathetic, pitiable even, at this moment. So having them do things which besmirch their characters not only give them faults to make them not Stus, but also add reality to the situation. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were starving and shell-shocked, would you pay? No you wouldn't, if you aren't a dingus.
- I think the way that Yajirobe finds out who Daniel is is just so clever. This was mainly based off of restaurants like Applebees, which often have tons of pictures lining their walls, showcasing American culture. So I went with the same feel for this. This all brings full-circle how Daniel's leg got injured. This is the first time that it's confirmed that he was that guy running around throwing flyers to people (later tripping and hurting his leg bad). Yajirobe briefly guesses at the conspiracy surrounding that incident (and how Brian knows him), but he doesn't get too into it yet.
- The fact that Brian produced the money to pay for Yajirobe's/Harotu's bill just shows that he's rich. He comes from the country, yes, but he knows Daniel, and he even knew quite a bit about the samurai school. But he never boasts, never mentions it, nor uses it as a crutch for success. And I believe that's one of Brian's strongest qualities.
- The two men watching the boys were slightly based on the Bree-folk in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". The men in the town of Bree were particularly swarthy beings too.
- "The dull, lightless look in Brian’s face was no more enticing toward conversation than a rugby tournament to ballerina." - there are many examples throughout the story, but this is one of my favorites. I wanted to use numerous similes and metaphors and comparisons throughout the story, though I did not want to use too many of the tired old clichés. I created pretty much all of the ones I did use off the top of my head in an attempt to give words back their meaning, their power. Cliché phrases are often dead parts of a story, empty words that mean nothing ever. By creating new comparisons on my own, I was trying to avoid that as best I could.
- Mark has so much bravado simply because he had so much in Dragon Ball Z.
- I had Mark specifically train in Karate, as I believe that was one of the forms he boasted about being a master of in Dragon Ball Z.
- Obviously, Kumo didn't know Launch's name. I named Launch in the text simply to not confuse readers.
- "I’m gonna be the next World Martial Arts Champion" - could I make it any more obvious who Mark is?
- Regardless, this statement shows how devoted Mark is to his craft. His pomp and circumstance and arrogance may hide his skill, but skilled he is. This is something that people in general do not understand about Mr. Satan. He's an amazing fighter for a human. He legitimately won the World Martial Arts Tournament. So having him fight Yajirobe is not only a way to advance both of their characters, but to show how Yajirobe (and the audience) has underestimated his abilities. This fight pitted him against another human (also before Yajirobe became much more powerful), so I was able to have him win for essentially the first time on screen.
- "As he began implementing his attack once again, he felt the rumbling and sliding below him of another slam, something happened that neither of them intended. " - the last part is another reference to Galadriel's monologue in the opening of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring".
- I remember working on the opening paragraph of the sixth section ("Two of them there were...") for an extended period of time, similar to how I spent a long time on the first paragraph of the first chapter. There was a very specific image I wanted to bring up when introducing those two samurai, for they weren't noble like Kumo and Elijah, and they weren't as collected as Naigo or Makare. They were essentially sell-swords, perhaps having bought their samurai titles. They were nothing compared to the "real" samurai.
- Atramentaceous is one of my favorite words I used in the entire story.
- Harotu's ability to stave off defeat, yet not finish anything himself is a reference to Sonic the Hedgehog in "Super Smash Brothers Brawl". He's my favorite character in that game, but goddamn, he has no good finishers.
- Makare is a walking meatbag of hypocrisies, so that's why he was described with contradictory words.
- Makare's purpose is revealed at this point. He believes that Elijah is a suckish teacher, and that only he can properly train new samurai. Additionally, he wants to spread the use of ki throughout the world - something which Elijah is vehemently against. This is a correlation with the proliferation of (deadly) nuclear weaponry.
- "I command an army of men, much like the one you have behind you, and we are many." is a reference to famous quote from Legion in The Bible. Of course, Makare is very arrogant by nature, so this quote is no surprise. I mean, arrogance is what drove him to monologue before the boys instead of allowing his man to kill him. The eternal struggle of the villain is the inability to tell anyone of their genius plans and their many deeds. Makare was consumed by that desire to feel relevant when he monologued to the kids.
- This chapter is the end of Harotu in more ways than one. While his character is finally given lots of focus and development, it all comes crashing down in the end. He's a coward, plain and simple. He's not fit to be a samurai. So all of Harotu's development was misdirection. Giving him more prominence implies he will become more important later. Turns out the opposite is true.
- I imagined the fight between Makare and Brian/Yajirobe to be akin to that of the short battle between Palpatine and the three Jedi (who were with Windu) during "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith".
- “One day I’ll get to you and teach you how to get to purest hell.” is a reference to "Just" by Radiohead.
- I didn't want Elijah's appearance to really be some Deus Ex Machina. It was foreshadowed in Kumo's section earlier in the chapter, but more importantly, Makare gives up attacking the boys before Elijah even gets there. He knows Elijah is the better swordsman (though he fancies himself smarter). This doesn't matter much to Makare. His life is more important than his pride, and he knows that he can either use Naigo's ki abilities to kill Elijah or double-team the Daimyo with the Lord of Hunger at his side.
- The Daimyo requests the boys do what they will with the evil samurai prisoner. While he gives them a knife, this was simply to give them the option of killing him. He did not ask them or command them to do so. I think the main reason the Daimyo was so vague at this point was because he needed the boys to stop being sycophants clinging to his every word and teaching. They had to do some stuff on their own. Of course, the thing they were meant to do was more than something trivial, so this may continue the subtle theme that Elijah is an antagonist like Daniel and Mark and Makare and Naigo.
- The prisoner was particularly inspired by "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. The way he pleaded was as well.
- Yajirobe was always meant to want to kill the guy. It wouldn't make so much sense, personality-wise, if he just wanted to let him go. That said, I was mainly challenging the cliché of heroes wanting to let their enemies go. From the get-go, Yajirobe did not. Yajirobe's justifications for why he should kill the man are all logical and are all things that I believe, myself. Of course, he later recants his belief after seeing the man in pain. It's like trying to hold fast when your girlfriend starts crying. Regardless of what you believe, wanted to do, or even hoped to happen, as soon as those tears come, it's impossible not to bend to her wishes. Similarly, as the man's blood flows, Yajirobe cannot continue.
- Yajirobe sparing the man later becomes integral to the plot. But at this point, it mainly seems to be a character moment, not a plot moment. That is what I like so much about the scene. It develops his character and sets up plot at the same time, effectively working towards the completion of character development and overall plot at the same time.
- The benches with spikes was something I had actually read about before. I think it was in France (or some other European country). People had to pay to use benches. I don't think there were spikes, but there were barriers preventing them from sitting otherwise.
- The importance of the zeni close out the chapter. Once again, they are no use for him. Importantly, Yajirobe can't win at all. He didn't win a fight during the entire chapter, alienated himself from Brian and Harotu, and failed his master by not killing the man. And once it's all over and he's exhausted and tired, he can't even afford to sit on a bench and rest.
- Daniel's latest proclamation at this chapter's end is more confident than his last one. In chapter 3, he was regretting his decision for being on neither side. Now he's talking about how everyone will underestimate him. I think that he got a confidence boost after putting the explosives in Makare's cave. He has a way to deal with Makare now, and that guy isn't so big anymore.
Chapter 5: Regret, Regret, Regret 
Several significant setbacks systematically and slowly separated to now come back together and eat at him. Makare had not only his army’s slow pace to worry about, but Elijah too, and even Daniel was a threat. There were so many that needed to die, and there was so little time.
“It’s not as vast as I remembered it,” said Makare. He stood on Igaron Mountain, on the rock he had so often meditated. Below him was, nestled by olive and oak, the old Academy. Empty it looked, and neither fires nor sounds came from it, nor were there any defenses being put up. From his keen vantage point, he could see nothing he could not conquer. “But we are still not ready.”
Naigo, who was scraping mud off his boots around the tree, looked up, “We have over two hundred, Makare. Surely your old friend can’t take on that many.”
“He can and he would. He will also have the help of multiple students, so we must take everything into account. I cannot risk having too few samurai.”
Naigo shook his head, “I’ve brought many from the south, but you Makare, you have no men following you. I thought you went to school here. How many were enrolled?”
“One hundred forty-three.”
“And none follow you today?”
“Just you, Naigo. Most of the others are mercs or worse. They are barely better than common thieves and not worth my time. It’s far less a remarkable profession than you would think.”
“Yes, yes. I am sure.”
“What’s that, Naigo? Some sarcasm?” Makare sniffed. “That’s not like you.”
“I’m itching for battle. My sword is lonely. Tell me already, how many men do I need to bring for us to go?”
Makare began counting on his fingers, “We have… two hundred and thirty men? Yeah. So, counting three students, Kumo, and the servants, and of course Elijah, I think we would need no less than seven hundred.”
Naigo raised his cheek, almost laughing, but very much skeptical, “I doubt there are that many of us in the whole world. Maybe you’ll need to swallow your pride and hire some of those common thieves.”
“It won’t come to that.”
“And, I’ll need more zeni too. These two hundred we have so far weren’t cheap,” continued Naigo, ignoring Makare.
“That’s fine. I was just heading out to Daniel’s anyway. I’ll get more money from him,” Makare said. “And I may be gone a while, even if the money itself shows up quickly.”
“Why?” Naigo asked.
Makare looked him in the eyes before breaking his gaze, “Don’t be alarmed, my good samurai. I have personal business. But until I’m back, you will by my succedaneum and lead these men. Should Elijah stage a sneak attack, or anyone else come by, I want you to deal with them.”
“I can do that,” the larger samurai responded, with no lack of enthusiasm.
Good. Makare saw how bad the man wanted to rip someone apart. He just hoped Naigo wouldn’t take it out on their growing army. Makare took one last look at his old Academy, the last look he would see of it in such peace. It held to him no more interest than when he had watched a devils darning needle coat a glass window in fog as a child. Such animals were peasants’ delights, not his. Alas, he remained transfixed. A small part of him wanted to go there now… but he couldn’t. That would ruin all he had worked toward.
He nodded to Naigo, giving a half-hearted wave to the rest, and descended from that mountain like a jackal in the night.
The coldness was not bad compared to the wetness that accompanied it. In his night spent outside, Yajirobe had been coated in it, and now he was shivering. Miserably, he had returned down the dirt path, past the wineries and trees, to the place mandated by his master. It was 7:59 in the morning when he stumbled past the gates, past the huge doors, and out toward the crisp green training area.
Elijah, his master, was waiting, as were Brian and Harotu. The two boys noticed the dried blood on Yajirobe’s orange training shirt, their little eyes flickering with innumerable theories, but no words did they speak. Instead, the three silently settled into formation as their Daimyo began to talk. His sword was out, and he walked slowly, his shoulders thrown forward, but his neck high, his eyes piercing, but his mouth calm.
“I have made each of you a katana,” he said, echoing over the still air, “You will learn to use them in the coming days and weeks.”
“How long is it going to take, exactly, sir?” Brian asked, his voice cracking.
The tall man stopped, staring down his pupils. He had no anger in his eyes, looking instead with controlled impatience. “However long we are given by Makare. He gathers men to assault the Academy. They will kill you if you do not fight back. And fighting back – that is what you will be taught today.”
“How many of them are there?”
“Their numbers are irrelevant,” the Daimyo continued, moving over to a tall barrel and reaching in, “We are not learning to attack, but to defend. In fact, 95% of everything we will learn will be defense. The smarter samurai is always he who can defend better. The smarter samurai is he who knows that battle should not be sought, but should be expected. We are always at risk when carrying katanas, and you must realize this,” he said, pulling out three blanketed objects. “Now take these; they are sharp. Very, very sharp.”
He handed each boy a sheathed blade. Each hilt was black, the collar golden, and the sheathe silvery and white. As Yajirobe grasped his, he became aware of how heavy it actually was. No, these were no bokkens, no child’s toys. What his master had just given him could easily kill a man. Yajirobe spied his own name inscribed in flowery letters on the blade closest to the hilt. It almost made him smile.
Then the Daimyo returned to their head and drew his own sword. And the boys drew their own, as awkwardly as they could. Brian in particular had a hard time with the weight. Once they all had their swords out, Elijah showed them the blood groove – a small indentation which let the blood of their enemies flow easier – by demonstrating cutting open a watermelon. Harotu quivered at this. And thence he told them many things, of which no great expressions need be made. Much of it was quixotic, and needs not repeating.
Of parrying, Yajirobe quickly learned, it was not all that different from using the wooden practice swords, only more dire. The katanas were frail – a good deal more than their previous experience had led to believe, and Elijah made it clear that as they parried, they were to never, under any circumstance poke with the katana. That made Yajirobe wonder why they bothered sharpening the point, then.
First they trained in Sabaki defense, and learned moves to defend against the sword, the punch, the kick, and the mind. Though as Yajirobe found these teaching natural, he continuously saw Brian keeping up with him, equally or sometimes even faster, while Harotu slowly lagged. They learned correctness first, a painful and often times humiliatingly slow form of blocking which looked no less than a ridiculous dance. But as they added speed, and later power, Yajirobe understood the most important aspect of their training. It was not even in being correct or flashy, but in patience, and he suspected that if he was more patient, the skill would come much easier.
After a plethora of garrulous anecdotes by his Master, which spanned days and days, Yajirobe began to notice fires and black figures surrounding their indomitable walls on the mountains around. As they grew more and more numerous, their master remained pococurante. But their training shifted quickly from parrying and defense, from graceful and swift arcing parrying, to deliberate and vehement blows. It was an audience unwelcomed.
Every night, after hours of training, Yajirobe sheathed his sword, his arms feeling light and sore, and went to bed. And there he would find the other two. By now, he was too tired to be annoyed at them.
“There has to be at least five hundred,” Yajirobe heard Harotu say as he entered the dorm.
“I think there’s a thousand, honestly,” Biney replied, looking up as Yajirobe entered. “What you think, Yajirobe?”
He grumbled as he sat down on his bed, “Who cares?”
“We could just leave. There aren’t that many of them yet. We could sneak out–” Harotu began.
“So you’re a coward,” Yajirobed quipped.
“No… but just look at it! There’s only three of us. And there’s, what, hundreds of them? Maybe even thousands?”
“The master will help,” said Yajirobe, rolling out his bed.
“I don’t care how good the master is, he can’t take on that many!”
“How do you know that?” Brian whined. “You aren’t an expert.”
“And neither are you.”
“If you tried to leave, I bet the master wouldn’t let you,” Yajirobe began. “He looked like he spent a lot of time making those swords, or something. He must’ve known only the best of us would still be around by now.”
Harotu rolled his eyes and shook his head. Clearly he was outnumbered. Instead of continuing the argument, he flipped over into bed with a jovial collection of ‘whatevers’ and ‘lames’ peppering under-breath like a fine chianti.
Brian and Yajirobe watched through the window as the fires of settlements shined bright. They could even see the small figures of clothed men pacing back and forth. Yajirobe would be lying if he said he wasn’t trembling.
“You plan on fighting, right Yajirobe?” Brian asked him.
He sighed, “I’m not gonna run out there and attack them.”
“Oh come on, you too? I didn’t think you were a coward after what we’ve already done.”
Yajirobe shook his head. “That was too fast. We didn’t even think about it. But these guys are all lining up day after day, and it gets worse when you think about it…”
“You’re going to run, too? You’d leave us to die?”
Yajirobe stared into Brian’s face. He didn’t know what to say. On the one hand, he despised Brian and Harotu. It was merely his nature. From the beginning, they had gotten off wrong (though if there was a correct way, Yajirobe knew it not), and here they were, several months later, and Yajirobe’s opinion had barely changed. Sure he knew them more, sure he had almost been friend-like to them, but he had not been engaged in it. He had sat back and tagged along or added in token sociality. But they had lost one after another, mission after mission. It was Yajirobe and Brian and Harotu. He could no longer hide behind the others. He could not forget why he was here. He was here to be a samurai. He was here to help Yajirobe; himself. He was here to learn how to defend himself. He couldn’t pretend that had anything to do with the others. Maybe he wouldn’t run, but he wouldn’t lay his life on the line for any of them. If they were to die, so be it. There was nothing clichéd or poetic about it. Yajirobe was a realist. Whatever he had to do, he would do. He didn’t care what anybody else thought.
He saw Brian’s face recoil in shock, but it was late and he was tired. Yajirobe walked back to his bed and jumped in it, ready to fall asleep and get those cursed lights out of his mind.
In the morning, the sycophants pried the sleepy students to the wet grass. Before them stood Kumo in full armor as well as Elijah in armor of his own. This was exceedingly rare, as the samurai-in-training had never seen their teachers suit up.
“Today, we’re going to show you a battle. I have already spoken to Kumo about it, and we’ve agreed to both go all out,” Kumo nodded. “Pay attention specifically to what I do, students,” he said. “I expect you to explain to me what happened when we are done.”
The two samurai got into positions and bowed. Kumo’s stance was tall, with her left shoulder leaning forward. She gripped her katana’s hilt lightly. On the other hand, the Daimyo showed no position. He stood tall and still, but did not even place his hands on his scabbard. She drew her own, rushing Elijah. She swung – a real blade – at him. But the man jumped into the air, pulling his knees into his chest as he rolled over her. Landing, he drew his own katana and swung in a fluid movement turning around to face her. The woman had expected this and parried with a graceful arc. Off her parry, it sliced toward Elijah’s chest, but he was ready and pushed her blade back.
She stumbled and he ran forward, around behind her and took up position. Kumo, expecting an attacked, had lunged forward in desperation to parry a blow which did not come. In doing so, she fell over, her arms splayed and sword out. The Daimyo walked up, kicked her sword away, and placed his sword on her throat. And thus it was over.
“Students, what can you tell from that battle?”
Brian was first, “You beat her, sir.”
The man nodded, “Specifically, how?”
“By lettin’ her do all the work,” Yajirobe said. That was too easy. He was well learned in how to avoid doing any work. Seeing what Elijah had just done was like looking in a mirror.
“Good, yes. That is it. When fighting, you must remember: Fight on your terms. By defending the vast majority of the blows, I was able to set the pace and let my opponent waste far more energy. Most of the samurai you will fight in the coming days will be very impatient. As impatience grows, so does carelessness. The longer you control them, prevent them from hitting you, the more open they will become. Now students, prepare your katanas and duel us. Harotu and Brian will go with Kumo, and Yajirobe come here.”
(Cue Parting of the Sensory)
Yajirobe had never dueled with his master. None of them had. Well, Anders had, but that kid wasn’t around anymore. He stepped up, and watched as his master took the same position, or lack of, he had against Kumo. Yajirobe drew his katana and fell into a low crouch, cautiously approaching. When he felt amply close enough, he swung. The man jumped back, his cloak furled around him and drew his sword in response. Taking this time to gain ground, Yajirobe ran forward with his blade out. His master parried it, pushing Yajirobe away and onto the ground. Yajirobe rolled quickly, just escaping a hacking blow behind him. Now covered in mud, he stood up and took stock position.
The man circled him, enclosing around him slowly and slowly enclosing around him. Yajirobe watched him, and not just the sword, but all of Elijah’s being. The man jumped on his toes, causing Yajirobe to panic and send his blade up to block. But it was just a feint. And Elijah then moved his sword freely to Yajirobe’s leg, cutting it. The boy felt immediate pain, but did not look down or move. Instead, he dropped his sword onto his master’s, pushing it away before it could do more damage. His master attempted a flurry of attacks to Yajirobe’s chest in attempt to dislodge him, but it proved as fruitless as a tree without fruit. Yajirobe found it rather easy to parry the attack, only having to move his sword half as fast as the attacker. Maybe there was something to being defensive.
He could see Elijah reeling up for a power attack. His flurry died down slowly, but it was discernible. Yajirobe braced himself, and as he guessed when the attack would come, he dove out of the wave. Sure enough, his master had switched up his blade movements just at that second. But Yajirobe’s sidestep had given him the advantage; an unguarded flank which he sliced his sword toward. His master saw it at the last second, but could not move. Yajirobe was able to hit him cleanly in the back, somewhat deep. Blood pooled and soaked Elijah’s robes. He turned, at that point, and batted Yajirobe’s sword out of his hand, then kicked him to the ground. Showing no sign of pain, he bowed to Yajirobe, and spoke:
“That was a good move. But you must remember to stay on guard. Even getting a hit in, your opponent will still be alive. Keep your guard up at all times.”
Yajirobe nodded, his heart beating almost too fast to hear that. He couldn’t believe he landed a hit. The two looked over at Kumo, who had been fighting Brian and Harotu simultaneously. Now the boys were fighting one another, and they seemed rather angry. It was probably about last night. Kami only knows how bad it would have been if Brian was fighting Yairobe. Both Brian and Harotu traded blows, knocking each other back, sparking blades together, and not backing down. Neither was inclined for defense.
Harotu preferred spamming the same move over and over again. But his vicious upward cut, though it was staying, could only do so much. Eventually Brian deflected it, leading to Harotu to stumble back. He didn’t even see Brian as the white-shirted boy sliced one more time. It hit Harotu across the face. He screamed openly and fell. But Brian stood there, neither pitiful nor pitiable, blood dripping and flowing down the blood groove of his blade, and his high, cold face looking down on impious little Harotu.
The coming days featured no more than the same. They perfected their art of dueling slowly, but it all came as certainly as more fires and more men came around their temple. By the third week, all of them had gained significant finesse and discipline to marry their strength. The result was positively better than expected, and even their master could not take the three of them on at once again.
It was the fourth week, on a stormy, wet, foggy day that things changed. The five were shivering between mind and metal on the far lawn when the gates opened. Upon seeing what he was letting it, a servant had screamed out,and hastily rang a bell for the Daimyo. It was a hackney strategy, but it worked well enough to get his attention. The downside was that Naigo and Makare would know something was up as well.
Nonetheless, the Daimyo and his students (not to mention Kumo! She’s very important!) sprinted out to the cobbled courtyard to see what was the matter. It was there, before them that they saw it; a great steed; a black horse. On it was mounted a man; a familiar man. He was dressed the same as the one who had rang the bell. Yes, it was a servant of the Daimyo, one of the many who had attended to them these months. And he was headless.
(End of Parting of the Sensory)
“You will never underestimate your opponent. They will be treated with respect and honor – for they can kill you. They can always kill you if you lack preparation. But you will not and they, in turn, will not kill you. We fight on our terms, on our turf. We never fight an enemy who dictates the battle. And we will lead them here, no matter how many there are, and we will kill them.”
It was the day of the fifth of May. The headless man had arrived two hours prior. And now, as the Daimyo and his students watched, the mountains were emptying. Samurai marched against the Iboinoshishi School. They had not yet identified the Lord of Hunger, master of the arcane, but Yajirobe had been assured that he was coming. Yea verily, he was coming.
The Daimyo had called them to the roll of hill just in front of the buildings, on the far side from the gate. Here, he had promised one final lesson. In front of them was a dummy of straw. Behind them, the endless hordes of their enemy. Elijah faced the dummy from ten meters away. He spoke:
“This move should be one of your most powerful. It’s called the Iaigiri. Watch closely.”
The Daimyo lowered himself into a crouch, his right hand loosely holding onto his scabbard. Then, he began running, yelling at the same time. Upon reaching the dummy, he drew his sword, and in one movement, sliced the wooden figure in half. He stood up, back to his onlookers.
“I hope you can mimic that simply from seeing it. We don’t have time to practice, I must confess.”
“Sir, where are we supposed to go? They’re almost here. Wouldn’t it be better to fight up on the walls?” Brian asked him.
“You and Yajirobe will not be fighting. Not yet.”
“What?! Are you kidding me?!” Harotu yelled back, in utter disbelief.
“No, they have to do something for me first. Consider it my zwichenzug, if you must.”
“Wait, what?” asked Yajirobe. He was clearly not privy to what a zwichenzug was. Lucky for him.
The Daimyo, taking long strides, had reached back to his boys. He reached into his robes, and pulled out a small contrivance from within. It was an orange ball with seven stars. He handed it to Brian.
“Please give this to Daniel. Tell him that I no longer require anything from him,” Elijah smiled with an awkward half-pull, and it looked like he had never smiled before.
Yajirobe’s understanding was blurry, “Why didn’t you give us this yesterday or something when they weren’t attacking?”
“I didn’t think of it yesterday. Now please go. I will need your help as soon as you are back.”
“No… no way. No fucking way, man,” Harotu spat, “I am not doing this alone!”
Elijah the laodicean ignored him. “As soon as you give it to him, return here. Get going.”
And then he walked out with Kumo, leaving the three boys alone. Brian had the orange ball with the stars on it in his hand. He looked at it curiously.
“Well that’s it, I’m leaving. Screw this!” Harotu said. Before the two could dissuade him, he had bolted off to the dorms.
“Wait, come back…” Brian said, raising his hand. But Harotu was gone.
“Let’s just get this over with. It shouldn’t be dangerous or anything,” Yajirobe offered, and Brian nodded.
Brian was still keeping an eye toward the dorms as they left, his ever sulking eyes hoping for some last breath of courage, but alas he saw none. They were thereafter escorted to a porter-gate in the back wall and escaped out into the forest of olive trees. Behind them, the smoke ever rose.
But as they waded through the brush, Yajirobe noticed how ostentatious their orange training clothes were. It grew readily most disheartening as he saw a group of eight men guarding the path in front of them. After a quick conference with Biney, who deemed it Yajirobe’s turn to be the distractor, the larger boy stumbled out onto the dirt and started yelling at the group.
“Don’t move, buddy!” he shouted.
The samurai, seeing him, instinctively drew their blades and charged. While they did so, running past the trees and leaving the point unguarded, Brian jumped out and ran at them from behind. The two closed in on the men, then drew their swords, and in the same movement, swiped toward their foes. Completely taken aback by the fact their opponents were fighting back, the men fumbled and crashed into one another. Yajirobe swung with an upward arc, sending the samurai out of the way, and a few into the air. He back-slashed the closest samurai to him, as that man fell, and then sheathed his sword along with Brian. They scurried out, not wanting to wait for those who were still alive.
The two made good time to the winery from there on out. They had been this way so many times it was second nature to know to turn right at the second fork and to snag into the near-hidden gate on the edge of the city limits.
There they came upon the house of Daniel Parroda, the reigning light-weight world champion. Where the wine burned and the wood turned to ash, there before lay a house of greater and older stature than any they had ever seen; truly, it had been nigh autochthonous. Now it was but a mucky ruin, splendored no more. The two grasped their sheathed swords in tepid hesitation on their approach forthwith. Someone had been here recently to desecrate it.
And there, upon a flaking window frame bathed in brine and fire was he, Daniel. His back broken, his head thrown back, his stomach up, his chest and neck cut to pieces, his face stained with tears, his eyes ever open and staring far-off, and his breath no more, he lay in naught but xanthosis. His brother, Mark, was nowhere to be seen.
“You look so tired and unhappy.”
Like a raven watching amongst the chaos, was there yet another. He positioned himself on the roof, between two high beams, and was ever content. Jumping down, splashing the ever flammable alcohol up on the boys’ clothes, he spread his arms to welcome them in. And as they beheld him and saw his dark hair and sharp eyes, they knew him to be Makare.
“What’s he doin’ here?” Yajirobe pondered to himself.
The man approached them, “I was taking care of some personal business before coming home. But I see Elijah’s sent me a taxi. He’s impatient,” the main grinned, “Well, if he insists, I cannot refuse.”
The man drew his sword.
The two hadn’t even attempted to resist, hadn’t even drawn their swords. There they were, flying through the brush like lemurs, frantically interchanging positions as they leapt and bounded over twig and leaf. As soon as they had seen Makare’s sword, Yajirobe had run. He might have screamed like a 4 year old girl too, but the details on that are a bit sketchy. Brian, ever aware of his own mortality, had followed right behind. The southern winds gave them great purchase while they fled, and they could smell the alcohol blowing toward them, and knew ever how close the great and terrible man was. Alas, it was too close, ever constantly. For Makare craved their blood, toward which no satiable replacement could be found; it was best, then, that they stayed far, far away.
And their training had thus paid off. Athletic though they were not, nor had they been attempting to become, both boys now ran with endurance unrivaled. They had not so readily given to the thought that they were training themselves to be in peak health – just looking at Yajirobe’s plump figure could prove that otherwise. It was more that, at this point, they had reached their mental maturity; their fighting had been streamlined beyond efficiency to harmony. The substantial power increases were coincidental at best. Here they were, as they outran Makare, and laid him in his own sallow expectations, that Yajirobe and Brian had come to their own. This was theirs, their now spindling run.
A great volley of smoke flew up ahead, and they could see the Academy itself burning. They neared the sorry state to find many a body piled by the walls, and blood – so much blood – ran over the otherwise untainted limestone. The wooden porter-door was ajar, lying around it were several servants, long dead and long bled. But in front of them was a backpack; and it was Harotu’s. He was nowhere to be seen.
Yajirobe and Brian had paused to catch their breath, wherein Brian had been feeling over the small orange ball their master had (in vain) given him. Still, as they heard more screams coming from within, the two snapped out of their respite and ran in, Brian snagging Harotu’s backpack over his shoulder before stepping through the door.
Beyond the threshold stood Kumo, the large woman bejeweled of steel and sweat and by her many sycophants stood. They battled a horde of scanty samurai mercenaries, and the bodies were piling up ever more. No sign of Harotu or Elijah were around. The two students ran up to help. Still, they remained puzzled to their master’s absence.
“Where’s the Master?!” Yajirobe yelled hoarsely over to Kumo who was busy hacking off a man’s neck.
She ripped off the man’s head, sending blood down her chest, “I haven’t seen him! One of you needs to go find him, quick. All the servants I’ve sent looking haven’t returned! Elijah better not be dead… or we’re dead too! Ah! I need the other one of you to hold this point!” she breathed, motioning to a wound on her side, “Hold them until I patch this up.”
More and more bad men ran toward them. It was all slow motion as they watched the death and destruction. They were animals, all of them. It was frightening, overwhelming. They held his life in their hands, those men running at Yajirobe.
He didn’t need to think about it. Yajirobe stepped forward, “I will do it…” he said, his voice was soft and shaking. “I will do it!” This time, he shouted it. The servants and enemies together stopped their fighting to see this young boy, this young samurai, step unto his own and face the coming onslaught.
He was not brave, nor was he fearless. But Yajirobe was going to stand and fight until he had won or until he had died. If there was one thing he had learned all these months, it was that he would do things on his terms, his way. He would not be caught and strangled in a far room as he cowered and hid. No, he would fight them here, and he would win. Oh, how he hoped he would win.
“Kumo, it’s been forever.”
Makare, the wolf, landed to the ground. He had snuck in behind by the same door Yajirobe had come through prior, and all the guards were long-dead. Now, he had infiltrated far into the Academy and was remarkably free to do what he pleased. Only a few servants had stood up to him, and he had quickly slit their necks with little effort.
There was a difference between a man with a sword and a man who could use a sword.
And now he stood here at a medical station outside of the food hall, where Kumo was sitting and being applied bandages for her wounds. A quick swipe and her attenders were dead.
He smiled, “You were always my favorite bitch in the academy. Did you know that?”
Kumo lunged at Makare. He fell into stance, gripping onto the sword’s hilt sticking up from his belt. But before he could unsheathe it, a blast of energy came roaring over his ear to hit her head on. It landed squarely in her bosom and sent the woman flying back, no doubt wounded, if not dead. Naigo stopped behind Makare, giving him proper backup.
“I didn’t think you’d make it, Makare,” the man spoke.
There he was, the Lord of Hunger, finally making his appearance. His wore a long black cape like Makare, but his was less tattered and only a single piece. He sported a huge pointed crown on his head which was painted in the shape of a red human skull. He walked not with his katana, for it lay sheathed and bloodless. Instead, he carried two wakizashis (smaller blades than katanas, but larger than daggers) in each hand. His gloves smoked still from his energy which he had created. Now he walked on out at Makare’s nodding.
“All the north-lands are yours for helping me, Naigo,” he assured. “Just kill his acolytes!”
The taller man paused and looked and saw: It was Yajirobe he did then fall his eyes upon. The boy was standing with a host of others, and they were fighting off a relentless enemy. But Naigo had them in his sights. He sheathed his blades, for there was a better way to kill them. He prepared a ball of pure, concentrated energy.
It was a red ball, flowing with electric and sparks, and dripping burning pieces onto the now-scorched earth. It took time, but he was gaining control every time he did this. While the energy formed in his hand, he supported it with obligatory grunts. With grim satisfaction, he saw that the energy was forming quickly into a tear-drop ball. The others were too far away to see him. Even if they could, none of them would have any idea what he was doing. They wouldn’t know they were about to die. This was Naigo’s favorite part.
He felt it more than saw it when the energy was ready. Looking down at his hand, the ball was no more than the size of a globe. But its lethality factor would not be questioned. Lining himself up, he arced his arm back, flicking his wrist, and threw the ball directly at the group of resisters. He had men fighting amongst them, and surely they would perish with the rest. But this was war. Naigo would do whatever it took to win. And everyone must lose pawns to get the king.
It was not immediate, but far quicker than an arrow, when the ball reached the mark. It exploded on impact, throwing bits of bodies – intestines and chunks of chests and so much skin – and dirt around in a swirling storm. Yet the primary quarry, Yajirobe, had looked left at the last moment, and seeing a whirling strike on approach, flung himself away and survived.
Naigo growled, and drawing his wakizashis, he ran at Yajirobe.
The boy was blinking himself out of dizziness when he saw Naigo charging him like a bull seeing red. He barely had time to bring up his sword with his tired arms and block. But the crash of impact itself was so monumental that it flung Yajirobe back regardless.
He stood up again, trying to stop seeing spots and began forming his own plan of attack. Yajirobe remembered what his Master had told him. He had to dictate the flow of this battle. He had to keep calm. He could win this. Instead of retaliating with a charge of his own (surely, that would result in nothing more than a missing head), he steadied his blade and dared the man to come and get him. Well, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea either.
Naigo roared in disapproval, but nonetheless could not refuse. He took the offensive, unable to stabilize his bloodlust. Turning his body, he slammed down with both blades. Yajirobe blocked them easily and kicked Naigo’s feet out from under him, springing back, and taking the same position again. This time, Naigo swung high with one blade, and low with the other. Yajirobe jumped between them, flipping his katana, to bounce them away. As he landed, he saw Naigo open for attack, and struck the man’s chest. He screamed out, trying to kick Yajirobe, but to no avail. Yajirobe attempted another hit, but Naigo was already recollected. He now had madness in his eyes.
The man rushed Yajirobe with a flurry of attacks. Yajirobe was pushed back, slowly losing ground as he could do nothing but block hit after hit of metal on metal. His speed had been deceived by his height. Yajirobe did not think this man could have been able to move so fast, and now he could barely block all of the jabs. Some of them were even making it through. Several light scrapes started forming on his forearms and face, but still Yajirobe blocked. Until he saw an opening, he had no other choice.
Naigo reprieved and flipped over Yajirobe, trying to cut his head off as he jumped. But Yajirobe had ducked and rolled away, just barely missing a second quick-slice to his ankles. Before he could stand up Naigo was already on him. Kicking up with both feet, Yajirobe was able to hit the man’s arms and push him back. Then, seeing the fatigue that Naigo had, the boy knew it was time.
He did not run directly at Naigo, but in more of a spiraling circle. As the man turned to face him, Yajirobe noticed all of his reflexes were far slower than before. Good. He could attack now. Yajirobe tried a high cut, which knocked away one of Naigo’s wakizashis. Then, Yajirobe moved forward and was so close he could have stepped on Naigo toes. He parried back and forth with the giant’s single, smaller blade. Naigo knew this game all too well. For he had his other hand behind him, and was readying for critical execution another energy beam; and all this he did while doing nothing else but blocking. With a single wakizashi, he was a sitting duck. Or he would have been if he didn’t know how to create energy blasts. Naigo knew far too well the assumptions the young would make when thinking they were ahead.
Yajirobe did not see it until it was too late. The energy blast came as suddenly as it did painfully. Naigo rolled his blade out of Yajirobe’s, stepped back, and point-blank fired with his other hand into Yajirobe’s face. The boy couldn’t even scream in pain because the air had been sucked from his body; his eyes blinded, his katana fallen to the ground, he had nothing left with which to defend. Yajirobe staggered forward, coughing hoarsely and unable to see. He swung his hands out, trying to punch Naigo, but the man was far too smart to get close. Instead, he took his last wakiazashi and threw it at Yajirobe, sticking him in the neck and making him fall with a sudden, airless gasp.
“Elijah! Elijah, come out. You coward. You sit in safety as everyone around you fights with valor and dies. Elijah?! Where are you? I have not come here to simply bloody my sword on your servants. Let us fight! I look forward to it! But you don’t… could it be that you are scared? Elijah, the child prodigy, now too scared to come out and fight me. ME?!” Makare unsheathed his sword and began pointing it around at the houses around them. “Burn it. Burn it all. Naigo, I said burn it. I don’t care about this place, I don’t care about our history together. If he won’t face me, destroy it!” Naigo remained silent. “Do it!”
Brian had spent all of this time searching for his missing master. He was just now reaching Elijah’s chambers, and opening the door, he saw the samurai. This house was one of the few not burning yet. There was little time. The man was sitting in his room, on a mat, in meditation. At a time like this.
“Sir, Mr. Daimyo, we’re under attack! We need your help. They’ve killed nearly everybody. You have to help!” Biney squeaked.
“Did Daniel appreciate his present?”
“He was dead when we got there, sir,” Brian said, gravely.
The man kept his head bowed and eyes closed when he spoke, “I didn’t think Makare would get to him that fast.”
“But… sir… the battle… they are attacking right now! We need you!”
“You don’t need me.”
“Yes we do! You’re the best samurai in the world.”
“No, I’m not.”
Brian stopped. His face grew red with anger as he thought of all he had done for this man. They held him in such high regard. Why was he just giving up now? Heck, Elijah had been the one pushing them to train for this moment all along! Just a few hours ago he was giving them advice for this fight! Brian shook his head in disbelief. “Have some courage! We’re fighting for you!”
“Fighting for me. Why?”
“Because you’re our Daimyo. You’ve taught us everything, and showed us how to fight, and… and…” Suddenly a huge explosion went off behind them, a red blast shining through the paper windows, over Brian’s distressed face, “You are not beaten! You are not beaten…”
Elijah stood up, “We are not beaten,” he said to himself. “I know who yet remains. Yajirobe and I, and you, Brian. Any one of us is a match for Makare. He is not as great as he thinks himself to be. But my plan must be trusted, no matter what it is. I know more than you think, Brian, and if you wish to live, you will do as I say.”
“What do you mean, sir?” breathed Brian.
“His companion, Naigo, he is a samurai of the south. I never feared Makare, but the company he kept, especially in these recent days is chilling. Daniel couldn’t get to the monks in time, and now he’s died for it. Naigo learned from those solipsists how to win.”
“You mean murder us.”
“I mean just that. Naigo wields a power which none of us can bear resistance to. He will destroy us, the world no doubt. They did not believe me! Even Makare will become his slave!” he lamented. “Where is Yajirobe?”
“He’s holding them off, sir.”
Elijah bowed and nodded on his exit, gathering himself up before walking out, out of the room, out of the courtyard, and to where Makare and his diabolical creation stood. Brian followed him meekly. As they went, they saw many bodies and many fires, and even that of Kumo’s beleaguered corpse in the ruins of the old refectory. But no tears did Elijah have for any of them. He walked confidently out, all the way to the shouting man, and stood, paused. Behind him was the hulking mass; the elephant in the room; the man of magic; the Lord of Hunger; Naigo. He stood ever still.
“You and I have business,” began Elijah, pointing swiftly at Makare. “Your pet does not.”
“Naigo is with me. Just like they are with you. I have already killed Kumo and one of your students. You are next.”
Elijah shook his head, “Brian has more power than I. Naigo is not stronger than the two of us.”
Naigo hissed, “Wouldst thou bet thy life on it?”
“Hold your tongue, vagabond,” Elijah said, batting an eye. “Makare, you are nothing. I could end you now, as I should have years ago, if not for your caretaker.”
“Yes, our old master was a lovely man, wasn’t he? Didn’t want you killing me. I’ve got to thank him for that. It’s too bad, really that’s he’s gone. He’d love to see you now. How you’ve lost. His most promising student turning out to be nothing more than a failure. It’s just that I’ve got Naigo that you can’t do anything. You may as well give up,” Makare laughed.
“You called for me. You unsheathed your sword. We duel. The others will not be kill–”
“Hahah, no. I am no fool, Elijah. I know you are the superior swordsman. But I am the superior mind. I don’t want you dead yet, anyway.”
“Give up, or Naigo kills the boy. Or is it too much to ask for you to show a little humility?”
“You are the superior mind, shouldn’t you know?”
But then, there came a sound from behind, and the group beheld Yajirobe. He was bleeding and covered in grime, but he was alive. He stumbled forward, with his katana in one hand. Naigo was aware at once and kicked the boy, knocking the sword out of his hands, causing him to fall into a pile of rubble. Both Makare and Naigo were shocked that Yajirobe was even alive.
Elijah pointed to Yajirobe. “You will never get it out of me, but I have told Yajirobe and Brian where the old master’s grave is. It would be foolish to kill the last two who know of its location.”
Makare flushed. He had never known how the master had died or where he was buried. In fact, Makare had thought their master had pulled an Elvis and was still alive… He stopped, lowering his blade. If what Elijah had said was true, he would need to keep these boys alive. There was a huge chance it was nothing more than a trick. He knew that. He was no plebeian. But at the same time, if Elijah was telling the truth… this meant more to Makare than anything. His old master, whose name is long forgotten, always had favored Elijah. Makare hadn’t been allowed near him during the last days. He hadn’t even known his shogun had died until three years after the fact. He needed to see the grave. He needed to.
“Naigo, take the two boys and bind their hands…”
“What? You wanted them dead a moment ago!”
“I-I… w-we need them,” Makare stuttered, “I didn’t know until just now about what information they carried. Now they are valuable alive. Bind them! Do not question me again!”
He spat in Naigo’s face; the man growled softly, but obeyed.
“Come on, master! We have to fight them!” Brian pleaded, but Elijah simply shook his head.
“No. His terms are merciful. He will take you two as prisoners to wherever he may go.”
“Quiet. Do not disrespect me in his presence.”
“Don’t struggle, or I’ll cut off your arm,” Naigo said approaching Brian. Brian at first held up his sword to fight, but seeing how tall Naigo was, he quickly let it fall. Slumping his shoulders, he meekly lifted his hands to let Naigo bind them After Naigo had done so, he bound the unconscious Yajirobe’s hands and had guards take them away. They carried Yajirobe, but Brian was forced to walk.
Makare, now turning to Elijah, raised his sword over his head and brought down the hilt upon Elijah’s face. And his old peer refused to fight back, instead just smiling at Makare. Makare was irate. How could he smile at his defeat? How could he mock the greatest samurai in the world?!
Makare grabbed the back of Elijah’s head and pulled forward as he swung his hilt inward. Elijah’s face and the metal connected hard, and it sent him sputtering. Then, he took his boot and raised it to Elijah’s face and kicked him unto the ground. “It’s not long now,” he said, before turning and leading the three others away, into the night. “I will kill you, I promise that, little Daimyo! Yeah, Daimyo all right. You were never a shogun, and you never will be. I’ll kill you in front of them. And if they don’t talk, well I’ll kill you anyway.”
Still the Daimyo smiled.
That was the tipping point. Makare took out a small blade, and cut Elijah’s neck. It was not hard enough to actually kill him, but it was deep enough to make him go limp and start convulsing. But Elijah laid his head and coughed up blood, and his teeth stained red but his lips curled in a small smile, as he if felt he had won. Makare was already gone and did not see it.
And there they left Elijah in the dust. The burning fires lighting their way, at least for a little bit. Only punctuated by Brian’s seldom screams and cries to his master, they otherwise moved in silence. The last army of Makare, now with barely more than one hundred men left alive and two prisoners to their name, took the long walk up to Igaron mountain and to their final resting place.
What can I say? I’m a dead man, and I’m most certainly not walking.
Today was May ninth, in the age seven hundred forty-nine.
- Regret, Regret, Regret chapter name origin - This is about Daniel being dead. Though he has no dialogue in this chapter, it is based on his regret about dying. The reference comes from Halo 2, during the opening cutscene for the second (playable) level.
- The alliteration early in this chapter was pre-written for the original version of Bitterly Bothered Brother. After I abandoned that story (for the first time), I kept several phrases and used some of them here.
- 143 students originally graduated from the Iboinoshishi Samurai School. This is noteworthy for two reasons. For one, it shows that Elijah cannot muster enough enthusiasm to even get close to that number. Only several dozen enrolled, and only three have made it very far. Additionally, it shows how powerless Makare actually is. He is actually worse off than Elijah. Elijah, at the very least, has Kumo with him. Makare has not a single graduate with him. All of his power is essentially coming from Naigo.
- I think it's cool how Makare remarks what happened to the samurai. Most became thieves and mercenaries. There isn't a place for them in this world any longer. That is a theme that is focused upon later.
- "It held to him no more interest than when he had watched a devils darning needle coat a glass window in fog as a child. Such animals were peasants’ delights, not his. Alas, he remained transfixed." - that is a direct quote from the original Bitterly Bothered Brother. After I deleted that story, I retained those sentences and used them here. Also, I used a variant of this short section in the version of Bitterly Bothered Brother that was written.
- I was fearful for the extreme amount of training I had to do in this chapter. I basically had to get Yajirobe and the others to be proficient swordsmen within a chapter. It was daunting, and that's the main reason this chapter took so long for me to write.
- I based all of the katanas off of what Yajirobe's looked like in the actual manga and anime. I don't think there was ever a close enough shot of the sword to see if his name was on it, so I was able to add that in on my own.
- I had to do extensive research on katakans. The exposition about the blood groove is an example of my knowledge gained from such research.
- Harotu quivering at the thought of the blood groove is foreshadowing.
- "And thence he told them many things, of which no great expressions need be made. Much of it was quixotic, and needs not repeating. " - this was mainly used because extensive dialogue about all of what Elijah will be teaching them would just be so boring to read. He's already had several paragraphs of dialogue up this point. And they were almost all about how he was training them. So that was enough.
- The stuff about Sabaki defense is something I researched. I felt like it was the most relevant form to use in this part.
- The way the samurai start to set up camp around the school is a bit of a reference to "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" where Sauron's forces took their time setting up outside of Minas Tirith's walls.
- "Instead of continuing the argument, he flipped over into bed with a jovial collection of ‘whatevers’ and ‘lames’ peppering under-breath like a fine chianti. " - is a reference to a famous quote by Hannibal Lector.
- Kumo's fight with Elijah was basically to show what two capable fighters should be able to do. It was really the only time that Elijah would be able to fight like this for the rest of the story so it was important to showcase it here. Additionally, Kumo has been largely absent from the story up to this point (her training of the boys is barely mentioned), so bringing her back was good. It's also good for the story that she came back before she dies later in the chapter.
- Elijah's fight with Kumo just shows how aware Elijah is. While it isn't mentioned here, awareness is something that Elijah said he considered paramount for a samurai to become exceptional. Compare his awareness with Makare's: Makare doesn't even know that there are bombs in his cave-base.
- I was really into Parting of the Sensory at the time, so that's why I added it. It's a very foreboding song and I wanted to have that feeling at this point in the story, so that's why I used it.
- Elijah was going somewhat easy on Yajirobe. As soon as Yajirobe hit him, he quickly disarmed the boy, showing how much more powerful he actually was.
- "Harotu preferred spamming the same move over and over again." is a reference to Hyper Zergling, specifically how he spams the same move over and over in Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
- So the second section is a mixture of montages and specific scenes. This was the most effective way for me to show their training. I had some specific examples of training just as I talked about as how time passed, they became better. It was the best way to do this section without making it too boring or too forced.
- The headless horseman is a sign that ruin is about to come to the school.
- The Iaigiri technique is the move that Yajirobe uses to kill Cymbal. I wanted to specifically have him be taught this technique because it's used in the manga and anime.
- This chapter reveals that it was Elijah who stole his Dragon Ball back.
- Harotu gets so mad because he realizes that he will have to stay behind and fight the samurai without the help of Brian or Yajirobe. Truly, the master was doing this to give Harotu the ability to let himself shine - to stand out, if you will. Suffice to say, Harotu doesn't take the bait and runs away as a coward.
- I wanted to get rid of people in various ways. Anders was taken away from being injured. Many were killed, many were rejected, but only Harotu runs like a coward. This is foreshadowed throughout the entire story. Looking back specifically to when the three boys meet Makare in the city, one can see how much of a coward Harotu was. He nearly bolted at that point.
- All boys wear the same orange training gi that Yajirobe wears throughout the series. Again, this is a subtle, minor explanation for something that we see in canon about Yajirobe. And Spindlerun loves telling the stories of the small things.
- “You look so tired and unhappy.” is a reference to "No Surprises" by Radiohead.
- I think it's interesting to see Daniel dead. After the ending of last chapter, he was so confident. And now he's dead. It's also weird because he was the first-person perspective. Killing the first-person perspective with so much of the story still left to go is pretty unconventional.
- I use the name of the story as Makare chases Yajirobe and Brian. I needed to explain why it's called what it's called. Sure, they are on a spindling run from Makare, but it's so much bigger than that. Throughout the story, they are always running, always barely getting from one place to the next, never ceasing, never getting relief. And that's why the story is called Spindlerun.
- What happens to Harotu is never explained. He left his backpack on the road, implying he was chased at one point. But this isn't his story. He fled. While they still needed his backpack, Harotu himself became inconsequential by this point.
- Yajirobe saying he will do it (holding off the hordes of samurai by himself) is akin to Frodo saying that he would take the One Ring to Mordor.
- I get chills as I read Yajirobe's lines before he holds off the enemies. He truly comes into his own at this point. He's not fearless. He wants to do things on his own terms - a teaching his master taught him earlier in the chapter. But there is such resolve in him. I don't think any other samurai boy could have done what he did there, and that's why Yajirobe is the hero, the protagonist, and the only one who survives this. He's a very flawed character, but this moment really shows him as being a true samurai.
- "You were always my favorite bitch in the academy." is a reference to "Blast Off!" by Rivers Cuomo.
- I had Kumo killed by Naigo because Naigo hadn't killed any of the important people yet. Makare got to kill Daniel, so he couldn't have everybody.
- Kumo would probably be about equal with Makare if she fought him one-on-one. Of course, she was wounded, so she may have had a slight disadvantage.
- The true power of Naigo's training becomes apparent here. He shot a blast that killed Kumo. She probably hadn't seen an energy blast before, so she had no way of blocking it. Energy attacks are a huge deal in this story.
- Naigo is so badass when he's walking with his wakizashis butchering everyone. That is one of my favorite parts of the story.
- Naigo's attack drips burning pieces on the ground because he's not an experienced energy attack user. It shows that he's still a bit green, which also shows just how hard energy is to master.
- It's worth noting that Naigo was fighting a weary Yajirobe when he beat the boy. He was also using his wakizashis, and Yajirobe had never fought against those before. So this leads up to Yajirobe's fight with Makare later. Naigo is such a better swordsman, and Yajirobe still nearly beat him while being so weary. Of course, Naigo never drew his katana, so he could have done better with that as well.
- The last part was written long before the rest of the chapter was written. I believe I wrote the entire dialogue section before chapter 3 was even done.
- Makare loses his mind, getting overcome with rage when he sees that Elijah will not face him. This hurts Makare's pride to the point where he wants to destroy the school. Surely, he'd rebuild a new one after he killed Elijah, so even though he wished to destroy it at that point, it doesn't mean he was abandoning his goals whatsoever.
- The reason why the Daimyo retreats is rather obvious, but I'll state it here for confused readers: He saw Harotu leave him and became so depressed that he returned to his room. Look at it from Elijah's perspective. He took all this time to train samurai - indeed, numerous groups - and now they get to their final test and one of them abandons him. Elijah had a sword handmade for Harotu and then he abandoned the Daimyo. That is absolutely devastating to the quiet master's confidence. This also shows a bit of the emotional side of the Daimyo. He finally has something he can't deal with and breaks a little. He had no one to talk to about it, so that probably intensified the way it affected him.
- "You are not beaten" is a line I had written down before writing this part. Above on the page, there is a picture of a page of paper where I wrote down words to use in Spindlerun. On the other side, I wrote down a few phrases to use as well. This phrase was on that other side.
- Elijah is anti-ki like a hippy is anti-nuclear power. Also, fuck hippies.
- Another fact about Elijah's old master comes out with Elijah admitting that he wasn't allowed to kill Makare because the old master had forbade it.
- Makare's sentence about killing one of the boys is so brilliant. It can be taken two ways: he could either be bluffing by pretending he killed Yajirobe, or he could be truthful about killing Harotu. Now, we don't even know if Harotu died, but this is a nice nugget for speculation.
- Elijah liked Brian best from day one. He saw himself in the boy. So there is something to be said about Brian being the last one standing from Elijah's perspective at that point. He would have done anything to keep Brian alive there. He wanted at least one student to survive so badly, and Brian is the one he wanted to live out of all of them. I had Brian be the Daimyo's favorite so Yajirobe could have another thing going against me. It's also fantastic for the plot in general. We don't always get what we want.
- Makare keeps the boys alive to find out where his master's grave is. It's a bluff on Elijah's part. Elijah barely even mentioned the old master to them, but Makare bites on the bait.
- Elijah is smiling because he got Makare to take the bait and he knows that Makare will die from it. He has tremendous faith in his students.
- Makare didn't take Elijah with him because he didn't want the other man to see his terrible little base. He was planning on coming back down the next day, bringing the prisoner to witness his execution of the Daimyo.
- This chapter ends with the ruin of basically everyone. The school is destroyed, Kumo is dead, and the Daimyo is wounded badly. Yajirobe and Brian are prisoners and Harotu has forsaken them by running away. Even Daniel is dead. Despite all the training and small victories, none of the "good" guys could get a win where it counted, at least in this chapter.
- Daniel is dead, but I give him one last word at the end. I don't do this for any of the last two chapters, as he is long dead by their time. So this is the last one of those in the entire story. The dates still remain at the end for chapters 6 and 7, however.
Chapter 6: This Is What You’ll Get
-four hours prior to the end of the last chapter-
I haven’t told you yet. I haven’t made things clear. But I will. I will tell you all of it. Kami knows if I have enough time.
My name is Daniel Parroda. I am the reigning world-class lightweight boxing champion. My mansions, my popularity, my servants, my fame, they are all behind me now. Here I am; at the edge of the Orange Star City, in my father’s winery, where I should be safe. The two samurai factions have, up to this point, remained calm and civil. To this point, but not now. Not anymore. On my phone, I just got a message from Makare. He wishes to talk to me alone. I fear he knows I killed those monks so many months ago. I fear he’s come to kill me. There is little I can do about it.
Mark, my little brother, is here. I look over to see what he’s doing only to find him fast asleep. I can’t help but smile, even as my heart beats with fear. He’s still got that half-eaten steak next to him. That’s just a perk of my success. He gets all the best things he wants. But that won’t last. He’ll have to earn it himself once I’m gone. He’ll have to become a champion too if he wants more prime meat. But Mark’s been training so hard and mostly for me. I couldn’t do anything he’s done when I was his age. He’s going to be stronger than me. He’s going to be stronger than anybody realizes. I know he will. I walk over to him, waking him up as gently as I can.
Running my fingers through his curly black hair, I speak softly, “Hey bud, we have to go,” and he stirs awake. “Come on little devil, wake up.”
He is sluggish to get up. In the meantime, I go back to my desk and pull out a small TACPAD. This is my golden ticket, so to speak. The explosives I put in Makare’s cave headquarters will go off with just a single push of one of these buttons. But I can’t press them yet. The armies could be outside. Makare surely is.
We have a contingency plan for this. The master of the Samurai school is supposed to send me a message. He has to know Makare’s coming. He has to know when I should press the button and kill them all. He has to! I really should have bought a telescope and lived on a mountain. I really don’t know what to do. I’m in a goddamn state of weltschmerz, a word which here means I’m depressed.
“Where are we going, Danny?” I hear Mark say behind. Good, he’s up.
“You’re going to head back to the city, okay?”
“We were just there…”
I nod. “I know. But there’s no time for questions. Grab your bag, and I’ll meet you in a few hours.”
“But why can’t you come now?”
“I have business, kiddo,” I smile. “It’ll be easier for me to finish if you take a head start.”
His face remains un-assured. I want to tell him. I want to. But I can’t. If he knew what was about to happen, he would never leave. I can’t let him die too, if that’s what it will come to. I can’t risk it.
There’s a knock at the back door. I’m out of time.
“Go now,” I breathe, “before you speak again. And here, take this,” I reach over onto my bed and hand and grab something before throwing it into his chest. “Don’t forget this.”
It’s my championship belt. The entire buckle is pure gold. I can see the wonder in his eyes, the curiosity, but I can’t tell him why. I can’t. There’s another knock at the door, this time more forceful. Makare’s getting impatient.
“Take good care of it, Mark. You’ll be a world-champion one day. Just keep training like I’ve taught you.”
He opens his mouth to retort, but the door beats again. This time it’s nearly thrown off its hinges. The megalomaniac is going to break through.
“Go! Mark!” I say just as the door flies forward off its frame, hitting the table behind me. “Mark, run!”
He tucks the belt close to his chest before turning and bolting. Opening the front door, he runs out, and soon I cannot even see him through the windows. I feel a creeping shadow on my back. He’s right here.
“My most important accountant. Daniel Parroda.”
The voice is none other than Makare’s; that dour wolf.
“Mister Makare,” I say, turning to face him cordially. “This is… unexpected.”
“I hope not,” he sneers.
I feign surprise, but that’s more formality than self-protection. “Oh, why?”
“There’s something that hasn’t been adding up. I was just thinking about it. The Red Ribbon Army… how did they find the monks? And why bother killing them? What threat were they? It didn’t make sense. The army doesn’t work like that. They are far too big to get that petty. Far too professional. But then I remembered you, Daniel. Of the few people I had told about the monks, you were the only one with a pocketbook big enough to finance an army.”
Makare holds his arm akimbo, grasping onto the hilt of his katana. Oh no, no, no. He’s going to grab it. I don’t have a weapon.
“I do have money, if that’s what you want to know,” I reply, keeping my outward appearance as calm as possible.
“You killed them. You ordered it and Naigo had to learn all by himself, and it’s so slow!” the man yells. “Ki control is not so easy to free-ball, you know. Well, that’s it. That’s it. I already have your money, and we have enough men now to take out Elijah’s school.”
Makare shakes his head, squinting his eyes. I see him grip the hilt of his sword more firmly. “You are no longer needed.”
He draws his blade in a single flick, slicing toward me. I am nimble enough to jump out of the way, but there is a glaring problem to my strategy (or lack thereof). I simply don’t have a way to get close to him. He’ll cleave me before I can.
I mean, Makare could have brought a sword for me if he was an honorable man.
“Makare, we can talk this over. I ha–”
“No talk. You are no longer needed.”
He comes closer, now twirling his blade around like some dandy. Tearing through my fine wood tables and all my papers and trophies and pictures, he really is making a mess of things. I run backward, looking for a weapon as he continues to carve a path. I turn around for a second, but Makare is on me at once, and a last minute duck is all that saves my head. He hits the nearby power cord, ripping it open; and it sparks and hisses, cutting out the lights. I can’t do anything about that.
With the lights out, I slowly move away from the scene of destruction. Hopefully his hearing isn’t that great. And then, I feel the cold steel whip across my chest. The gush of blood comes next. No… I can… I can still… fight…
I don’t feel the pain. It feels like a soft hair running back and forth over my chest. I feel the stickiness of the blood. The cold air on my gaping wound. Yet I don’t feel the pain. Behind Makare, there is a small fire brewing. I can see his silhouette now. In pure adrenaline, I break forward, hitting the katana away and connecting my fist with his face. He howls out and drops the sword. I’ve got him. I’m not the reigning lightweight champion for nothing.
Stumbling back, Makare can’t defend against these world-class punches I’m throwing at him. I barrage him in the face and chin with punch after punch until he trips over himself and falls over. The fire is getting bigger. I see the katana glinting back light from it and grab it. Running to Makare, I jump on top of him, pinning him to the floor boards. He is just barely recovering from my assault when he looks up to my face. I have the katana and I’m bringing it down.
And then, I feel it. The pain; all of what had cut into me before finally rushing to me, my pain receptors on overload, I can’t even see. I drop the katana, screaming at the top of my lungs. This hurts. This hurts more than anything I have ever felt. I’ve been beaten bloody, pummeled mercilessly, but never cut open. The wounds on my chest have to pretty deep. I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…
I blink my eyes until I see some semblance of color again. As my vision comes back from the pain overload, I still have Makare pinned. I go to strangle him. As I do, he raises his hand and pulls something out of his shoulder strap.
No! I reach for it, but it’s too late.
No, wait! Wait!
I’ve given all I can, but it’s not enough. My arms are too lethargic from the pain. He brings the small dagger up to my throat and sticks it in. Blood rushes into my throat, down to my lungs, out my mouth. I truly cannot breathe now. I can’t find the TACPAD. I can’t even activate the explosives. It’s too late. No! I don’t want absolution. I don’t want forgiveness! I just want to kill them all… kill them all…
It all goes blurry. My body’s responses have kicked in. I’ve grabbed the knife, tried to pull it out, but I’m not there. That is not me doing that. I’m just here. I’m just in my mind. I can’t feel anything. I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything.
Makare pushes the blade deeper and deeper into my throat. My body fights him every inch of the way, but it’s no use. I can’t win. I’m running on fumes. I’ll choke to death on my own blood before he can move me. I feel my body swelling up to pyknic proportions as my insides scream and flutter. I’m already gone. I’m gone.
I try to think of my little brother, Mark. I can’t. My mind’s gone laconic. I can’t think. I just see him. He’s got my belt. He’s standing right there. It looks so good on him.
It looks so good on him.
-after the end of the last chapter-
The muscae volitantes in his eyes were having a proper party. That was his best guess. Dang buggers were moving around with more vigor than he had ever seen. Yajirobe stirred awake on a barren, cold slab of rock, smoothed out and flat. On the back edge, it dropped sharply down into a crevice. The left and right sides were guarded by natural rock, and ahead was a single, barred door. He was in prison, or at least a really, really bad hotel; and he was alone. Brian and his master were nowhere around.
Yajirobe groaned and grunted. He had suffered a terrible loss at the hands of Naigo, if he remembered correctly. That was all he had remembered. Now here he was, in who-knows-where, aching and hurting and bleeding and writhing. He had been nothing but flouted, being left here. Yajirobe didn’t know why he was still alive. If they had lost – which they must have if he was in such a wretched place – then why had he not died? Both Naigo and Makare had been eager to eliminate him. He did not know; Yajirobe had never had an affinity toward the analytic aspects of life. He only wanted some pork in his belly, and nice sun to warm him. That’s all.
A loud clamour then rose up to equal echo on the left of Yajirobe. He looked over, curiously, for before he had seen naught but dark rock. Now looking closer, he saw the rock had many holes in it, enough to see through onto the other side. He approached, peering in, seeing a mirror prison chamber on the other side. Only, instead of Yajirobe staring back at him, it was the gaunt and grime-eyed Brian. He had in his hands the small, glimmering orange ball.
“You’re alive!” Brian exclaimed, with a brief smile.
“Yeah, where are we?” Yajirobe asked, not even trying to muster up a smile himself.
“That other samurai… Makare, I think? Well, he brought us up here. We’re inside the mountain.”
Yajirobe squinted. “Why’d he take us alive? He could’ve just killed us earlier.”
“Master told them we knew what happened to the shogun, where he’s buried and stuff. You know, the supreme samurai that even taught our master.”
“No, I don’t…”
“Well, that’s why Makare’s kept us alive,” Brian explained. “But I think they’re going to question us soon. You should, um, be prepared. I think it will hurt.”
Yajirobe growled, “Grr… I don’t even know where that old guy’s buried. I’ll just tell him that.”
“They won’t believe you, Yajirobe.”
Yajirobe wasn’t listening. He was more concerned with how to get out of this dank place. He spoke again, “We need a plan to get out of here.”
“I’ve already tried getting through the doors. Besides, there are a bunch of guards outside,” Brian shrugged. “And our swords were left back at the Academy.”
“Hmph, it’s no use sitting here–”
There was a creaking of the door then, and both boys turned to see what it was. Though Yajirobe could only see spotted pieces of the other jail cell, he could glimpse at the door. Brian’s, it was, and it was opening. In strode the man in black, Naigo, though he wore his crescent helmet. Along with two guards, they grabbed Brian, who pocketed the small orange ball just before they pulled him back. He fought against them, but being that the three were full-grown men, it was a short stint of rebellion. The group pulled Brian out, and as they walked away, down the rock halls, Yajirobe could hear their footsteps and Brian’s pleading echoing back. They must’ve gone several hundred feet before he could no longer hear their walking.
His skin still burned from that weird attack Naigo had used on him. Yajirobe had no idea what that was. It was almost like the Lord of Hunger had been able to create fire and then use that as a weapon. Yajirobe shook his head. He’d joined the wrong club. Samurai were cool and all, but being able to throw fire, that would be really cool. Then, Yajirobe thought more and more of this, and he came to realize how much work that would be. That would be awful, trying to make fire come out of your hands. And that didn’t even take into account if he would be burned. Yeah, that was too much work to worry about. He wouldn’t worry about it.
Yajirobe stayed there for what seemed like a few minutes, dangling his feet off the edge of the enclosure and thinking about how many plates of salted pork he could eat. Fifteen was his current record, but on his stomach today? He could probably beat that. Yajirobe guessed maybe eighteen plates. No, no, no. It wouldn’t work. He felt in his pockets, and sure enough, those three dastardly zeni were still there. With but this triumvirate of simple coins, he could not buy himself any goods whatsoever. He was extenuating himself so much that Yajirobe had forgotten where he was.
Yajirobe stood up.
“No way I’m getting tortured,” he whispered to himself.
Brian was now screaming in quick succession, relentlessly. Yajirobe couldn’t take it. He hunkered down, shifting his mass forward, then ran to the door. He slammed into the cold, prison bars; to which end, he lost his balance and was flung away. Deprived of food for too long, he could barely muster the energy to hit that pole. Were he at full energy, the fledging samurai would surely have beaten it down. Yet, even under the noise of Brian’s cries of agony beyond, the ringing reverberations from what Yajirobe had done had garnered enough attention to make a guard run over.
“Stopeet! Quiet yerself,” drolled the guard. He walked into view with a torch in hand, only to find Yajirobe keeled over on the slab. “Lookee here, it’s just a prisoner.”
Yajirobe looked up, and felt a wave of paroxysm at seeing this man. For who could it be other than that melancholic assassin of yore; the man who’s life had been spared by Yajirobe. When the man saw exactly who he was, he recoiled equally, but did not run. His cover was blown; he had nowhere to go. Yajirobe stared him down in cold disfavor.
“You!” Yajirobe exhaled.
“I… uh… I don’t…” he stammered.
“You’re still here, after I saved you!” Yajirobe shook his head in tepid anger. “You shoulda just left, man.”
“I, uh, ya don’t know what I havta do…”
Yajirobe stood up, walking straight to the barred door, “Look, there’s not much time. Just let me out.”
“I can’t do that…” the man said, uncomfortably.
“Hey, I saved your life, I coulda killed you if I wanted,” Yajirobe continued. He punched the wall in anger.
“Now pay me back. Let me go and I won’t bother your master anymore.”
“I saved you!”
The man could hardly refuse. His tactless words were convincing no one. What Yajirobe had said was indeed true. “All right, all right,” he whispered. “Go fast.”
Yajirobe nodded. Gripping the ansate of the door, the man quietly pulled it open, even as it creaked on its rusted bolts. Hopefully nobody heard. The man watched Yajirobe wearily before the latter turned and ran out. As he went, they could hear Brian’s cries rising.
The greater man, with a helmet painted with a red skull and robes of black had taken the small boy to the centerfold room, where he and his fellow master in evil, Makare, had taken up repose. Therein, he had come to the boy, Brian, and sat him on an incline chair. Many taciturn soldiers were milling about, and none were suicidal enough to stay too close. For Naigo was in rare form. His gormandizing tendencies had been replaced by purpose. He did not bother strapping Brian down. Drawing his sword and placing it to the helpless boy’s neck was enough to tell Brian he was not going anywhere.
“Tell me what I want to know,” Naigo began.
“I… don’t know what you want…” Brian responded, anxiety driving him.
“There was a great samurai whom your Daimyo killed. He was buried somewhere. You know where.”
Brian’s eyes were saucers to the blade digging into his forehead. “B-but, I don’t! I hadn’t even heard of this guy!”
Naigo responded by digging the blade deeper into the flesh. Brian screamed in agony and blood spurted out, coating the interrogator’s dark coat with a crimson tide.
“He taught your Daimyo how to be a samurai. Elijah has nothing but contempt for those he doesn’t agree with. He killed his old master, just as one of you will kill Elijah.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” the boy cried.
It was no use. Naigo removed the blade, ripping it back, and pulling more flesh with it. Brian gasped and slumped forward, spilling a stream of blood down his shirt and front side. Breathing heavily, covered in blood, and crying in pain, he looked up to the man. The steely-eyed samurai flouted Brian and gave him no rest. Bringing up his boot, Naigo pinned Brian against the chair. He pressed harder and harder, crushing the student’s chest. Slowly, but surely, his bones began cracking, and Brian had to stop screaming, for the air was being sucked out of his lungs.
“It’s not a question of if you know where he is buried, but how many bones I have to break before you tell me where he is.”
He let go. Brian hacked and coughed up blood, wheezing so much he was shredding the inside of his throat. Barely able to breathe, he could not much less tell Naigo the information, had he known it. In anger for wounding Brian too severely, Naigo compounded the misuse of his hostage by slicing Brian twice across the face with his blade. The boy shuddered – that was all he could do. But he could not talk.
“Prepare the other one. This kid’s no use to us anymore,” he said, solemnly.
Naigo stepped forward. He began to create a ball of energy, much as he had on the battlefield hours before. This one shined deeply indigo. He grunted in excess, as the energy molded into a ball. He had nothing to fear. The kid was just sitting there, spitting up blood, not moving his broken bones. So Naigo pulled his wrists up, flipping the blast over, and prepared to dunk the ball onto Brian’s head, which would incinerate the useless boy.
Naigo went through the motions, but Brian had looked up at the last second. In doing so, he had also grabbed the orange ball out of his pocket and thrown it right into Naigo’s face. The man had not expected this, and the shock alone caused him to stagger back, and as he did so, he lost grip on his energy, dropping it. The blast curved downward, hitting Naigo in the leg, and burning through his robes. He growled a low growl and fell over. Before the few mercenaries around could see what had happened, Brian had jumped up, and limped off.
Brian could only get so far with a cracked ribcage and a sliced face. He could barely see out of his blood-filled eyes, even constantly wiping it all away. So, Brian did not see a small table in his way when he rounded a corner. He fell into it, crying out again. He could hear Naigo behind him, furious as a bull in a rodeo. He would be here any second. Brian tried to get up, but he found he couldn’t. He was too weak, too tired. He fell back into the rubble that he just tripped over.
There was a hard-pack just under his lower back which Brian pulled out. It was Harotu’s backpack. Brian had been carrying it when Makare had captured him. Here it was… and all the fireworks were still inside. Brian’s heart jolted. He had a plan. Looking up, there was a torch hooked to the nearest wall. He crawled over and pulled down on the wooden holder, causing the torch to fall directly into his lap. He screamed again as the fire burnt his chest good. Pulling it off of him, Brian pulled out a particularly large firework and lit the fuse with his trembling hands. Then, he collapsed.
The footsteps of Naigo and his men were not hard to hear, and as Brian listened attentively, he timed it perfectly. Right when the group came around the corner, he threw the backpack, desperately and hopelessly to the troops. The fuse itself, still burning, couldn’t detonate on impact. Naigo, at its helm, caught the bag between his hands, and seeing the burning fuse coming from within it, yelled out before throwing it to the ceiling. A moment later, the firework exploded, causing a chain-reaction of explosions from the others still within. But they had blown for no use. The smoldering bag fell, from over ten feet above their heads, and had done no damage to them.
Still, at that moment, a piece of something buried in the ceiling, beneath a thin layer of dust, hummed awake, being triggered by that last explosion. A circular-shaped contraption it was, and the tip of it turned red. When it did, many others, like a sea of red eyes, like a host of evil insects in the night, turned red too. And oh, did they hum.
Naigo could not see or hear this. His focus was only on Brian. He swiftly moved forward, with impressive speed considering one of his legs had been burnt black by his own energy blast. He dropped to his knees, grabbing Brian around the neck, and pulling him to his chest. Naigo raised his hand, telling his men to stay back. Brian fought him, but Naigo was too strong. He was just too strong.
The man took out one of his wakizashis and lifted Brian’s shirt. The boy was pleading with him now, pleading for his life. It fell on deaf ears. For Naigo drew his wakizashi into Brian’s flesh, just below the belly button. His thirst couldn’t be slaked. He sliced deep and delicately, sure as to not rip the skin. Brian fell into shock, his screams dying down, and his body began convulsing. Naigo grinned, openly.
The samurai of the south ripped open Brian’s stomach with his black fingernails, scraping out the organs from within. As he did so, pulling out the intestines and liver, he lowered his face and took a generous bite with his yellow teeth.
At that moment, the explosives on the roof, the ones Daniel had planted so many days earlier, went off; and they coated the cave with fire and shrapnel. Neither the men nor Naigo could move in time as the sweeping walls of fire descended upon them; and it consumed not only the bodies of every man within, but also that of the rock itself. Then did the once infallible stone walls collapse and crumble and everyone within was wrought by vivisepulture. And the samurai from the south, the precocious purveyor of the art of Ki, was taken from this earth.
His grand escape was purely auspicious, purely chance. Yajirobe had gotten out, he really had, at the last second. The gatekeeper of whom Yajirobe had life by the throat had been warily quiet and slow in letting him out. Thereafter, sneaking amongst rocks and foul things, Yajirobe had stayed away from the light, stayed far out of sight. He had barely crawled out of a filthy crack in the side of the mountain when it had all gone to hell.
He wanted to go get a sword, go get some quiet to formulate an idea to free Brian and kill his inseparable captors – but it was too late. The rock had just blown its top. The sonic force had sent Yajirobe flying, literally, several feet out, leading him to tumble over himself down the side of the now silt-strewn side. Boulders and cobble followed him like loyal dogs. To Yajirobe, they were equally undesirable. He sat up, just in time to duck again as the rocks flew over him. He had no idea what was happening. It was as if the mountain was exploding. But that couldn’t be. Mountains don’t spontaneously explode.
A dust cloud, thereafter, came up, and it coated itself in the mountainside generously. Yajirobe had taken a last look back to the cave’s entrance, but seeing it completely collapsed into a mighty crater, he let any hope of rescue go like the fleeting wind.
He hadn’t thought it to be like this. Just a few nights ago he had spoken to Brian. He had told that boy to his face that he didn’t care. He wouldn’t save him. Well, Yajirobe hadn’t saved him. He hadn’t. But he’d be a bold-face liar to say he didn’t feel remorse for it. He was here, out in the wild, after some cataclysmic event he had had no part in. Everyone was dead. Everyone was gone. He was just here.
Yajirobe made his way down the mountain, finding a deer trail that took him back toward the Academy. His stomach rumbled in exquisite pain, reminding him that salted pork had not yet come. His feet were fatigued and felt like Styrofoam. The momentum the boy had created going downhill had caught up to him, and Yajirobe tripped over himself, falling forward and landing with a crash into a tree at the bottom.
Getting up, quite annoyed, Yajirobe noticed a flicker of gold stuck in the wood. He stood up and saw it: a katana. Yes, it was his katana! The black hilt, the gold neck, the long, slender blade… it was his, it had to be! Eagerly, he jumped forward, going to pull it off the tree it was tied to, when he spotted a note on the blade’s tip. Picking that up, he read:
“To whom it may concern, to my greatest student and rightful samurai, I congratulate you. You have passed the test. You have activated Daniel’s mine field with the tools I have helped you achieve. And now that he and Makare are dead, you have passed your final test; and you are a samurai like me. I will reveal it all now. Please come to the Daimyo’s chambers in the Academy as soon as you have read this.”
Yajirobe pocketed the note. He didn’t know about Daniel’s minefield. No sir. But that was regardless of the fact that the sword was here. He ripped off the frail ropes holding it and took it into his hands, feeling it over for familiarity’s sake. Alas, it was not familiar. It didn’t feel quite right. He froze. This was not his sword.
Yajirobe stole a look at the hilt, and saw in the flowery inscription that it was Brian’s name, not his, that had been placed here.
It was like a bucket of cold water had been thrown down his back. His master had been so confident here that one of them would get out. And he had bet it all that it would be Brian. Had his master no faith in him? Had Elijah not watched Yajirobe properly? Not seen how he had done so well since their first mission?! Had he not remembered how it had been Yajirobe, not Brian, who had dueled his master and injured him?
Yajirobe’s fury rose faster than a kangaroo being startled by a tiger snake. Anyway, he took that sword, he did, and started on in a full sprint back to the Academy. He would show Elijah who the best samurai was. He would.
As he ran, Yajirobe came around the bend and stopped (almost as suddenly as he had begun moments ago). For there, standing in front of him was an ostentatious man; Makare, who had half his face burnt black. His sword was already out.
“Clever, clever boy!” he spat, his eyes bugged. “Your hybris knows no bounds! To blow up the mountain… what shame have you?! What were you thinking?! Everyone is dead now! Everyone but us! What am I to do? There are no samurai left to follow me!”
“I didn’t do it…” Yajirobe responded in a startled rasp. He was just as stunned as Makare was.
“Didn’t do it? Didn’t do it?!” Makare screamed, falling to his knees, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”
He sat there, seething and spitting, his hands warbling and clasping against themselves like little serrefines, a word which here means medical forceps. Yajirobe could see how bad Makare’s wounds were from this position, and indeed they were haunting. The samurai’s face was almost blown away on the left side, his eye bloodshot and dark, and his mouth hanging agape by strings of flesh. Blood, cauterized black, coated his entire face. Then he looked to Yajirobe; and the grip on his sword grew ever tighter.
“Hmph, whatever man,” Yajirobe said, trying to sidestep around this hideous wreck.
“Get back here!”
Makare threw himself forward, leaping up and flipping his sword over his head. Coming down, his blade barely glanced Yajirobe’s previous position, as the younger samurai dodged away from it in instinct. Grimacing at the katana in his face, Yajirobe drew his own, slicing the opponent away. Makare, staggering backward, screamed again.
The boy would not be able to just walk away from this one. He would have to deal with Makare once and for all. This man would be his ascendant match.
The mountain to their right was boiling in spectacular orange light. The layers of explosives Daniel had planted must have been quite deep, as even now, sporadic blasts were continuing to fire off, flinging more and more rock about. The cave where once Yajirobe had been a prisoner now flowed with fire; for as time wore on, more and more of the rugged land caught up in like-fire.
But Yajirobe held the advantage. He had two good eyes. Now, circling back right, watching his opponent, he faced his back to the burning mountain. In the grim night, the brilliance so oncommon behind, he would blind that man, he would outmaneuver the great swordsman – he knew he could. Makare was now approaching him. It was time to end this.
Yajirobe stayed his feet, allowing Makare to make the first move. He was acutely aware of Makare’s skill. It was even greater than that of Naigo – from whom Yajirobe had been handed a terrible defeat only hours ago – so that he knew there was no reason to go running into that sword. Oh no, that was not for him.
The man, in his time, had come straight to Yajirobe with a tempest hot in his hand. His technique was ephemeral, reckless, but his power was great. The force of his hits pushed Yajirobe back, breaking the boy’s guard. He stumbled back into the dirt only to see the wolf on him again, pounding him with slice after slice. Yajirobe did his best to block, but he was cut deep across his collarbone. Gritting his teeth, Yajirobe punched Makare across the face with a knuckled hand wrapped around his sword’s hilt. Doing this caused the man to lose a tooth, spluttering backward. Yajirobe cautiously got up and kneeled down for an Iagiri attack. Sheathing his sword, he ran forward, and prepared to unsheathe it again.
Yet this trifled strategy was well-met by his veteran opponent, and Makare balanced on his feet just in time to see it. Jumping into the air, he flipped and parried Yajirobe’s sword-thrust upside down. So sudden was this defensive move that Yajirobe’s surprise allowed him to drop his sword, and lose it to the night. Makare landed but a foot behind him, swinging as his feet hit the ground. Yajirobe dove out of the way, with lag, but quickly enough.
He was at a huge disadvantage now. Not only had he lost his sword, but Makare had somehow gotten behind him and had the flaring fires to hinder the student’s sight. It was threefold as difficult now to see anything, let alone a displaced sword among the ash. Makare drove toward him once more, this time in a charge with his katana point-out. Yajirobe paused. Makare would be trying to scare him with this move. But Yajirobe knew that attacking with a katana’s point was not only dangerous to the bearer, but stupid. The brittle blade could snap. He had an idea for how to make that happen.
Twisting around, Yajirobe stood staunch in the ground. Before the man could get to him, he began running forward. Makare saw this at the last second, and stopped. He flipped his blade around, now having drawn Yajirobe too him, and swung it downward from over his head. Yajirobe had bit on this trick; now he paid the price in blood, in a long gash down his chest as Makare got a hit on him.
His entire body was numb and his head felt like it was on fire. Yajirobe fell down to the ground and could not move. Yajirobe was a coward by nature. He had always been one. Even in the months of training, he had been a coward. Never had he wanted to do any of those courageous things he had done. Never. It was only at night when he fell sore into bed that Yajirobe had shaken and quivered and cried about what he had done. Every night he had fallen asleep promising himself to get the hell out of that Academy. But he had nowhere else to go. His laziness equal to his cowardice had kept him here; in prime position where he should not or could not be.
Makare placed his blade to Yajirobe’s neck.
“Get up and kneel.”
Yajirobe did so. His mouth was too dry to beg.
“Now… I’ve got you all. I’ve killed every one of you,” Makare spoke, walking back and forth. “This would have been better had Naigo and my men survived. They were all a colossal waste of money. I should have known.”
Yajirobe’s voice cracked as he tried to speak, “W-what happened to them anyway?”
Makare stopped short, not facing Yajirobe. He buried his face in his hands. And that’s when Yajirobe saw it: his sword was just a foot to his left. He could see it! Yajirobe’s heart skipped a beat. He could reach it. And Makare wasn’t facing him. The man was too concerned with Yajirobe’s question.
Makare began nodding his head, rigorously. Simultaneously, he began waving his sword around to no one and no one in particular. “That’s what I like to know about it,” he hissed.
He turned to face his quarry, readying a heavy blow to decapitate poor Yajirobe. He found something much different. Yajirobe had thence grabbed his own sword and readied it in time to block. He shattered Makare out of his quasi-drunken stupor and knew it then, for it was his time to take the offensive. Screw it, Yajirobe thought. Defense nearly got him killed last time.
He stepped forward, within a tooth’s snare of his foe, and traded blows without end. And the mountain burned and exploded still. Yajirobe cut up and down, left and right, punching through every one of Makare’s defenses. Yajirobe now commanded this fight. He hooked his blade around the back of the other samurai’s blade, causing it to fly forward. Using that momentum, he propelled his own blade into Makare’s chin, ripping it open, giving free-flow to the crimson within. Yajirobe spun around, kicking Makare off, and hunkering down into a charge. He ran forward again, this time brandishing the katana well above his head. As Makare went up to block it, he slid under, pushing his heavy boots into the man’s shins, splintering them. He, Makare, fell over, howling in pain. But he fought Yajirobe even then, and their blades clashed and sparked ever still.
The boy jumped back from a long swipe. He tried approaching again, but the man, like a cornered animal, swung wildly again. Yajirobe parried it, putting all of his strength into it. He would not die! His adrenaline was in control now, not his brain. Yajirobe pushed Makare back and then flipped his blade. The man was now defenseless. There was no going back. Yajirobe arced the sharp side down on Makare’s hand. At that moment, it was severed; Yajirobe had won.
The man squirmed like a worm out of dirt; he screamed like he was being boiled alive. Before Yajirobe could even do a single thing, Makare had, between fearful eyes and splattering blood, crawled forward, getting onto his feet, and began running. He didn’t have to think about it. No, Yajirobe just acted on discipline when he ran after the old villain. He jumped to the air, his katana held high and proud, and then Yajirobe brought it to and through Makare’s neck as he landed.
It was over.
Yajirobe sheathed his sword, took a few steps forward, then collapsed. He was utterly and absolutely spent. When he came to the ground, Yajirobe’s head collided with something small and orange. He could not make it out as his vision became dark, but there was one thing Yajirobe thought before he fell into sleep: he would have a headache in the morning.
It was after four in the afternoon when Yajirobe awoke. He was greeted with several waves of pain, many of which were in places he didn’t know could feel pain. With an annoyed grunt, he pried out something from under his ear – his accursed pillow from last night – and saw it to be the small orange ball his master had given Brian. He pocketed that.
Getting up, Yajirobe made sure not to look at Makare’s headless corpse. He was never one for bodies, no sir. Now that he had won, however, the only place to go was back to the Academy. Even from here, he could see it. While most of the buildings smote in ruin, he was sure that whoever had written that note to him was still alive. And by ‘whoever’, Yajirobe meant the Daimyo Elijah. Heck, they had told him to go to the Daimyo’s quarters.
It was a short trek back to the smoldering gates. The carapace, now destroyed, looked unnatural and alien. It was a sad state of affairs this place was in. Yajirobe limped through, searching for signs of life. As my scholars remember, Yajirobe was not conscious when the Daimyo had been so badly wounded. He had no memory of it. It was by luck, then, that Yajirobe had gone into the one building left untouched. This was, by coincidence, the master’s chambers. He paused as soon as he came to the hallway, which was filled with doors, when he heard talking. It was not a man talking.
Still numb in his fingers, Yajirobe had trouble drawing his sword properly before entering. That was okay; it really was. Inside was no last soldier of Makare, no last assassin come to rid the world of Yajirobe (HFIL forbid). Yet, the figure was equally hated. He was perhaps Yajirobe’s third least favorite person in the whole Dragon World.
Mark was sitting on a small stool perpendicular to a bedside. There, next to him was the instigator himself; Elijah.
“You?!” Yajirobe said, completely dumbfounded.
Mark looked back, nodding, before giving Yajirobe the shoulder again. “He’s here, sir.”
There was a cough and a click.
“Well, hurry up and get over here,” Mark said.
Yajirobe sheathed his sword (oh how he would have liked to use it to make Mark leave) before approaching. He saw there where his master lay. The man’s eyes gleaned with a light when Yajirobe came into view, but that quickly faded into two dark pools of emotionless-stare. Yajirobe kneeled at the edge of the bed and placed his katana on the sheets. He had an extremely serious face on his face. Or so I’m told.
Yajirobe began. “Those guys are dead. I made sure of it.” Elijah nodded. He closed his eyes, and the three sat in silence for kami knows how many seconds before Yajirobe burst out in speech again. “Well, is that it?! I just beat them all. The least you could do is congratulate me!”
Still with his eyes closed, Elijah opened his lips, “I am glad you won, Yajirobe. And I am saddened that you are the only survivor.”
Yeah, it was Brian’s sword, Yajirobe thought. He knew Elijah had expected Brian to survive and Yajirobe to die. For all his indecency, Makare hadn’t been wrong about Elijah.
“So, then that’s it? Are you going to continue the class?” Yajirobe asked him.
“No, no. That was your final test… and besides I don’t have many resources left. You saw how Makare destroyed the school and killed all my servants… “
Yajirobe looked disgruntled. “So?”
His Daimyo was weak, causing him to speak very slowly, “The time of the samurai is over. With what Naigo has unleashed, I fear his type will become the norm, and we will be obsolete.”
“So what am I supposed to do now?”
“Do what you like,” the tired man crackled.
“And what are you gonna do, master?”
“I don’t know, maybe recover from my wounds. Maybe visit my friend the Ox-King. I have things to discuss with him.” He seemed very uninterested.
Yajirobe couldn’t believe it. This didn’t make sense. He had expected more, more to be gained, more to be taught. “I’ve barely learned anything.”
The Daimyo contained a chuckle painfully, while Mark helped hold down the bandages, “Ya–yajirobe, you just killed the two most powerful samurai in the world.”
“I thought you were the strongest.”
“M-maybe so… but… I’m in no… position to fight you… if you want to kill me, that is.”
Yajirobe shook his head, “Hmph, that’s it. I’m outta here. If you can’t teach me anything else, I’ll just go find food somewhere else. That crazy samurai that could shoot fire out of his hands probably blew up the kitchens too.”
“That he did.”
“No use stickin’ around then. You guys can, uh, clean this up, right?” Yajirobe stammered with his face going red. He did not wait for a response, “Great!” He went to leave, but Yajirobe remembered something. He took the small ball out of his hand and tossed it on the bed. “There, I found that at the bottom of the mountain.”
The Daimyo nodded upon seeing it, “Thank you, Yajirobe, for returning my possession.”
“Oh yeah, do I get to keep my katana now?” Yajirobe breathed, pointing to Brian’s sword.
The Daimyo sighed long, closing his eyes and falling to his soft, soft pillows, “Yes, take it. Take it for him. And Yajirobe… remember what we’ve done here, and why we’ve done it. Don’t ever forget that you’re a samurai by heart… N-now Mark, please fetch my water. If I’m going to go see my friend the Ox-King, I’m going to need a lot of water.”
Yajirobe had nowhere to go. At first, he’d gone back to the city, back to his old life, and back to the old meat shop where three zeni (his only money) couldn’t buy a thing. It was a heavy blow to him when he had returned to that all-important butchery and found it to be boarded up. Yajirobe learned thereafter that the old butcher had been killed months ago by General Blue, when the good General had destroyed half the city. Nevertheless, the samurai broke in through the locked door with his katana, and found the meat molded, abandoned; wasted away. It was a terrible, terrible loss.
After that, Yajirobe had felt truly lost. He left Orange Star City and went south. The aimless journey yielded a simple lifestyle. He would hunt for fish and pigs and jackalopes when he felt hungry, and he rarely met a fellow human being. He liked not having to socialize or talk to them. At the same time, though, it felt more eerie every day to go so far south. By a few months’ time, he even past the great South City, where Naigo had come from. Still, without seeing anymore samurai, he was happy. Maybe they’d been wiped out in the last war.
The next few years were as noteworthy as Jason Cropper’s music career. That was okay – Yajirobe was not one for a sybarite life. Between feasting on wild animals and relaxing on the prairies of the southwest, Yajirobe was able to hone his sword-skills on not only trees but the occasional bear or wolf. It was his greatest joy to fight and kill these wild beasts and then eat them. Though he rarely tried too hard, for it was in his nature to not try too hard, Yajirobe gained a substantial amount of power from this. In fact, it should not have been too radical to call him the strongest of all humankind.
It was in the age seven hundred fifty-three that Yajirobe found in a small pond an orange ball not unlike that of his fallen master’s. This one, however, had but one star on it. Twas a terrible thing, finding that ball. The thing brought him nothing but misfortune, for soon after, he became acquainted with that monkey boy Goku, and got sucked up in the great Piccolo debacle.
However, for all the variance and ultimate unknown that came from those quests (of which are surely well known enough for me to not have to describe them), Yajirobe did eventually find himself in a predicament. He was up on the old cat’s tower (Korin, to be specific), which he had stayed at ever since the defeat of Piccolo. Three other warriors were now here training under the great Master Korin, but Yajirobe was not. He was more along for the ride than anything else.
It was a sunny day, and Yajirobe was taking in the warm rays when the old cat came to annoy him again.
“Hey Yajirobe, shouldn’t ya be training with the others? The tournament’s only three years away, you know,” Korin beamed. Well maybe he did, I don’t know. He never opens his eyes so it’s hard to tell.
Yajirobe snorted himself awake, “Huh? What tournament?”
“Ya know! The World Martial Arts Tournament! Where all the greatest fighters in the world get together to beat each other senseless. It’s very popular.”
Yajirobe shook his head.
“Aw c’mon Yajirobe. Don’t tell me you’re going to let those four (Tien, Yamcha, Krillin, the clown) get stronger than you…”
Korin would not give up. “All right, tough guy. Heh, I can sense your power, and just between you and me, I know you’re the strongest out of all us here.”
Yajirobe opened an eye, “You’re lying.”
“Oh am I now? Fine, you’re not the strongest. Or you won’t be sitting there like that. Just think, Yajirobe, that if ya entered the tournament, you could win. You could get all that prize money! 500,000 zeni!”
Whoa now. That was a lot of money. With that kind of money, he could buy all the food he wanted. He was the strongest, the cat had said, so it had to be true. Sure it was a disheartening aphorism for the others, but it was positively profound to Yajirobe. He was the strongest in the world. Out of everyone, he had the most skill. He liked that. He didn’t like so much that he would still have to train some more (when he just wanted some sun).
Maybe if Yajirobe gave everybody some food they would agree not to train and he wouldn’t either. That way none of them would ever surpass him and he wouldn’t have to train. No, that was unrealistic. At this pace, he could still do minimal training and beat anyone. He would win this tournament.
Yajirobe nodded to Korin, whose lips pursed into a devious smile.
“All right, whatever, I’ll enter. Now let me get some sleep, stupid cat.”
Today was May 10th in the age seven hundred fifty-three.
- This Is What You'll Get - A reference to the chorus of the song Karma Police by Radiohead. A lot of people die in this chapter, but the title is specifically tailored from Brian's perspective toward Naigo.
- The opening to this chapter is mainly geared towards confused readers or those who don't have the ability to put the pieces together. Yes, the first person persona has always been Daniel, the man whom Yajirobe met in the street in the first chapter, the man whom the children stole fruit from, the man who has a picture in the restaurant, the man who is the brother of Mark (Mr. Satan).
- Makare is coming to kill Daniel for killing the monks. He has no idea about the explosives or anything else. He surmised that Daniel did it because Daniel was the only one wealthy enough to finance an army for such a mission.
- This chapter is the first confirmation that Mark is Daniel's brother.
- Mark was eating steak because Mr. Satan loves steaks in canon.
- Daniel referring to Mark as a little devil is me giving a slight nod to his future stage name of Mr. Satan.
- Additionally, mentioning that Mark has curly black hair is another reference to Mr. Satan's actual appearance.
- "I’m in a goddamn state of weltschmerz, a word which here means I’m depressed. " - that is a reference to the writing style of Lemony Snicket.
- Daniel reveals that the Daimyo would contact him if he thought Makare was coming. This is obviously done by sending someone to him with the orange Dragon Ball. Of course, by the time the boys got to Daniel's house in the last chapter, he was already dead, so Elijah was rather slow in sending them.
- I think the scene with Daniel and Mark is pretty sad. Daniel can't tell Mark what is going on, so he has to just tell him to leave. They can't have a proper goodbye.
- Daniel giving Mark his championship belt is him passing the mantle to his little brother. I'd like to think that Mark got the majority of his inspiration for becoming a champion by carrying his brother's belt, knowing that he needs to honor his brother by getting one of his own. Especially after he finds out that Daniel is dead, this should become a driving motivation for all of his training in the future. So as much as this scene closes out Daniel's life, it shows the start of Mark's - one that will later make him important in Dragon Ball Z.
- Calling Makare a "dour wolf" is a play on the phrase "dire wolf". Makare is a shell of a man, not worthy of being called a mighty dire wolf.
- Daniel is killed because he's no longer needed. Makare has enough money for the soldiers he needs, and he can't let Daniel get away with what he did to the monks. It's as simple as that. So once again, something that occurred in the early chapters comes full-circle. Here, it means the death of Daniel.
- "He comes closer, now twirling his blade around like some dandy." - this is a specific reference to Star Wars, and how many of the Jedi twirl around unnecessarily when they duel with Sith.
- "I’ve given all I can, but it’s not enough." is another reference in this chapter to "Karma Police" by Radiohead.
- It's a pity that Daniel had to die. I mean, he almost won. Had he not felt the pain from the wound, he would have certainly killed Makare. This just shows how weak Makare actually is. Daniel nearly beat him. So this sets up how Yajirobe is able to take him out at the end of the chapter.
- The prison that Yajirobe wakes up in was influenced by the prison rooms in the castle known as "The Eyrie" in "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R. Martin.
- The thing with Brian and Yajirobe communicating through holes in rocks was something I had come up with months before writing this chapter.
- The ultimate reason why Yajirobe survives this entire story is based on the fact that Naigo picks Brian to question first. It was random chance. Should he have picked Yajirobe first, Yajirobe would have died. Of course, neither of them knew that being picked would result in death, so they didn't react to it.
- Yajirobe's inner dialogue about making fire (ie, "ki") is basically an explanation for why he never learned how to use ki. Throughout Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, he can't use any ki attacks and he can't even fly. He comes to the conclusion within this story that trying to learn such would be very hard. Being that Yajirobe is so lazy, he just rejects the idea of ever trying to learn them.
- Yajirobe was always meant to find the soldier he spared again. It's basically an act of karma. Because he saved the man earlier - an act which none of the other boys would even face - he gets some sort of saving grace in his darkest hour. I think this is one of the coolest plot points of the story. Yajirobe is in a situation with basically no way out, and yet I get him out of there without resorting to Deus Ex Machina.
- Naigo brings up an interesting theory when he says that Elijah killed the last shogun (whom Elijah said simply died of old age). Should that be true, then Elijah, Yajirobe's master, is not a good guy. But then, who is in this story? Everyone has done something heinous at one point or another.
- Brian's torture is one of the most brutal things I have ever written.
- Brian escaping at first is just a ploy to create hope (in the good-natured reader) that he could ever get out of there.
- Now, when Brian finds Harotu's backpack (which had been confiscated from Brian after being captured), this marks the main purpose of Harotu in the story. He was a pyromaniac from day 1 in the first chapter. His tendencies were what was important. At the end of the story, his firecrackers are still in his backpack. Brian is able to use them to stall the samurai chasing him and inadvertently trigger the explosives that Daniel put in the cave ceiling. See how intricately everything is coming together?
- The way that Naigo cuts open Brian's stomach and starts eating him alive is based off of a snuff video I saw where some people did this to two women. I don't know if the video was real or not but it was still something that scared me pretty bad. I don't know that anything has scared me like that in my life. So I had to put it in here. Of course, it ties in with the fact that Naigo has been built up throughout the story as the Lord of Hunger; and he's feasted on at least one dead monk in the story as well.
- Brian is the tragic figure of this story. From the beginning, he was the Daimyo's favorite. He was studied, he knew Daniel, and he was from the country like Elijah. Elijah could barely contain his favoritism for him. So when he dies, it's breaking against the cliche that the expected always occurs. Brian's death is the most horrific thing I have ever written on this site. I do feel bad for the character I created now that I read back. He really went through hell in this story. And through most of it, he kept a good attitude. :/
- When I posted this chapter on fanfiction.net, I put up a disclaimer about the brutal things that would happen within it. I haven't ever done that before or since.
- Everyone dies except for Makare and Yajirobe. Yes, even Naigo is human. He still will die from explosions. I think it's interesting to note that the samurai that let Yajirobe out, the samurai he spared, is killed in the end.
- I like to think that Brian gets credit for the kills in the cave. So he killed Naigo and so many samurai. It's kind of a last victory for a kid with an otherwise miserable life. I had him kill Naigo much for the same reason I had Naigo kill Kumo. In the end, people of importance need to get some kind of victory. And this was Brian's only chance.
- Makare would likely get away simply because he saw the lights on the ceiling. He's an astute man in some cases, so that's how I had him survive.
- "Boulders and cobble" I used this phrase instead of boulders and rocks because I had learned that cobble was the next biggest type of rock in my oceanography class.
- Yajirobe's regret is important for his character growth. He can pretend to be an uncaring psychopath, but he really isn't. Deep down, he cares. He's just too embarrassed to admit it most of the time.
- Yajirobe's fascination with salted pork is a reference to Gimli from "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. He had quite a liking for salted pork in that series.
- The Daimyo reveals his true plan in his note. He always knew that somehow, the boys would activate the mines and get away, killing everyone else.
- Of course, he thought it would be Brian, not Yajirobe. This is such a sad moment for multiple reasons. For one, it shows that Elijah doesn't believe in Yajirobe. It is also sad that Brian didn't make it; it's a reminder that such a promising student was killed when he shouldn't have been. If I was Yajirobe, I would be utterly defeated, mentally, after seeing Brian's name there. I'm not sure I could go on as he did.
- I used hybris instead of hubris because I prefer that spelling of the word. Hybris is an actual word, a mere alternate spelling to the more common one.
- Makare is pathetic. The only thing he cares about when the mountain explodes is that there is no one left to follow him. He doesn't actually care that everyone - including Naigo, his good friend - is dead.
- When Makare screams, I imagine it's similar to how Aragorn screamed in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie when he kicks the helmet and (in real life) breaks his toe. Sauce.
- Another reason why Yajirobe is able to combat Makare is the fact that Makare is so weak. Look at all the horrific injuries he has. I didn't explain them in detail for multiple paragraphs for no reason.
- The way the mountain is burning and exploding in the background is the type of chaotic and fiery scenery that I like during big moments. A careful reader will note that I also used something similar when the Cell Jr. fought Crusty Pete in Sovereign.
- I used the word "oncommon" once instead of uncommon as a nod to Charles Dickens.
- "Oh no, that was not for him. " is a reference to the Rivers Cuomo song, "Oh No, This Is Not For Me".
- “That’s what I like to know about it,” he hissed. - this is a reference to a line by an extra in Seinfeld. He said this line and it's always stuck with me. It was just such an odd line - and commentary on the episode revealed that the extra was never even supposed to say it. So I had to reference it.
- Makare's fight with Yajirobe was the climax of the entire story. After it, pretty much everything is in the falling action or the epilogue.
- I think there's a bit to be said in the fact that Yajirobe kills Makare with Brian's sword. It's almost a way of remembrance.
- Yajirobe falls on the Dragon Ball and gets knocked out. I think that's a cool touch at the end. Everything is being tied up neatly, and the Dragon Ball rolls from Brian's corpse to Yajirobe's head. I think it's noteworthy to Yajirobe because he last saw Brian holding it. He would have no doubt Brian was dead after finding the ball.
- The light in Elijah's eyes went dark because he saw Yajirobe and not Brian.
- Yajirobe ends up keeping Brian's sword, not his own. He does this as a way to remember Brian.
- Careful readers would note that Elijah surely went to the Ox King's castle, for later on when Dragon Ball started, the 7 star dragon ball was found in his palace. Of course, he does mention going there, but and this is confirmed in canon.
- The old meat shop being boarded up is basically showing how the old Yajirobe's life is gone. He can't return to it, because he's no longer the same person. He started out the story in the meat shop, but the by end of it, there was no meat shop left to go to.
- Yajirobe was responsible for General Blue's rampage, so he was responsible for the death of the meat shop owner.
- Jackalopes don't really exist, even though Yajirobe hunted them.
- "The next few years were as noteworthy as Jason Cropper’s music career." - Jason Cropper was a member of Weezer before the band really took off. He quit and hasn't really done anything since.
- Yajirobe's journey south was my method of getting him to Yajirobe's Prairie before Dragon Ball started. After all, that's where he ended up in canon.
- Yajirobe should have been the strongest human at this time. He was significantly stronger than Roshi, Tien, and Krillin at the time, and they would be his only competition.
- I do a sort time-jump near the end of the chapter. I didn't want to explain Goku's meeting of Yajirobe nor their missions together. It would be pointless. Everyone already knows Dragon Ball. The story is long enough as it is.
- I don't name Chiaotzu by name because fuck Chiaotzu. Seriously, worst character ever (besides Upa).
- The end of the chapter had a singular purpose: an explanation for how Yajirobe was convinced to enter the tournament. It was always weird, in canon, that he just showed up and entered. He's a lazy dog, so it doesn't make much sense. He'd need motivation. So I motivate him through the idea of getting prize money (which would be enough to buy tons of salted pork).
- This chapter doesn't have a postword by Daniel because Daniel is dead. I did do one last chapter, even though he was dead, but that was mainly because he needed a final postword to go out with, and the chapter 4 one was unsuitable.
Chapter 7: Scarred For Life 
Bygones be gone!
Yajirobe was in internal quarrel, on the brink of irruption. Korin, the wise master, had only days ago convinced Yajirobe to show his worth, his highest quality. Since then, Yajirobe had not deigned to train with the other human warriors. He was not so much for crowds and thought it best to do his training alone. This proved to be utterly impossible, as in the small space that was usable in Korin Tower, he had no privacy. So his prodigality wasted away, all while Tien, Krillin, and Yamcha gained much power.
It was around May 16th that Yajirobe had had enough. He made up a quick sack of pork buns and rice and hooked his katana back to his belt (he hadn’t touched his katana since being up there). Without so much as saying goodbye, he jumped onto the railing, preparing to jump. He had forgotten how high he was; vertigo and acrophobia set in at once, causing him to fall back. He saw a blur of white go over him as he fell.
“Where ya goin’, big shot?” It was the cat.
“Uh, nowhere…” he replied lamely.
“Not goin’ to train somewhere, huh? Have ya finally stopped bein’ a couch potato?”
Yajirobe didn’t want the word to get out, no sir. “I already told you, I’m not doing anything.”
Korin jumped up to the rail Yajirobe had just fallen from with the nimble speed that I can only compare to that of a cat’s. He smacked Yajirobe on the top of the poor boy’s head with that warped piece of driftwood he kept as a walking stick, which made the samurai curse. “That’s ridiculous,” Korin said, “it’s borderline cumulus. Don’t pretend you weren’t sneakin’ off.”
Yajirobe, like all of us, knew Korin was speaking nonsense. “That doesn’t make sense– ow! Stupid cat! Stop hittin’ me!”
“Then start dodging. Your reflexes are slow from all those pork buns, eh?” Korin cackled.
Korin turned to face the other way. He was watching the sun start to set in the distance. It really was a spectacular view from this high up; yet he was the only one enjoying it. Tien was busy dueling Krillin and Chiaotzu at the same time, and Yamcha was doing some pushups. Of course, the samurai was right here groveling. It was then Korin got his greatest idea in all his life, and though such a thing was pleonastic, it was by no means bad. That’s why Korin was the master, really. He had a fondness toward prospicience.
“Yajirobe, before ya go… take Yamcha with ya.”
“Hmph, I’d rather fight King Piccolo by myself.”
Korin shook his head. “Sorry ta tell ya, but he’s dead. Otherwise, I’d be glad to set ya two up.”
“I know he’s dead, I was just…”
“Look, Yamcha needs a training partner. Tien and Krillin (with a little help from his friend) are training partners. It’s natural to pair you and Yamcha together. Besides, you’ll get stronger that way.”
Yajirobe didn’t respond.
“Huh, huh? Well?” Korin asked, poking Yajirobe’s soft flesh with the pointy end of his stick.
“I’ll stop when you agree to train with Yamcha.”
Yajirobe shook his head, standing up too. He gathered his clothes about him and picked up his food sack. He wasn’t used to having the pride of a samurai around him. It felt weird trying to look all confident and fearless. But he had to get away from this cat.
“He can’t keep up with me,” Yajirobe said before doing a fluid jump right over the rail, and back down to earth.
Korin watched him go for a while; then, he burst into chuckling and returned to the tower’s floor. He found Yamcha in a pool of his own sweat, over in that corner by the water barrels. The man was training pretty darn hard, doing one handed pushups. Korin walked over to him, and walked right up on top of his back, causing Yamcha to shudder in discomfort at the added weight.
“Hey, M-m-ma-master Korin? What are y-you doing?”
Korin sighed as Yamcha kept doing pushups, “You can stop now, ya know.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry!” Yamcha laughed nervously. He rolled over, and Korin fell off (but landed on his feet, I promise you that).
“Yajirobe’s agreed to train with you. He’s left the lookout to find a better place for ya two. You should probably go after him now.”
“But… um… where exactly did he go, master?”
“You’re a big martial artist now, arentcha kid? I’m sure you can find him.” Korin nodded at Yamcha. Yamcha got up quickly, frantically looking for his gym bag with all his stuff in it. Upon finding that, after messing up a good portion of the tower’s lower floor, he said his goodbyes to Tien, Krillin, and the clown and then dove over the edge himself.
Whether Yajirobe knew it or not, Yamcha was coming for him. They were going to train together. Nothing could go wrong. They would become bestest friends.
His years of solitude had wholly been his own. Yajirobe’s journey, his training, they were all a separate part of him. Nobody had asked him where he came from. Nobody had asked him who taught him in the military tactic of samurai. In turn, Yajirobe had almost forgotten about his training; he’d almost let what he’d learn fall to floccinaucinihilipilification. But pardoning the sesquipedalianism, here he was, out in the wild again, making the long trek back to Orange Star City. He was a ronin now. He was masterless. That was for sure. Elijah, his old master, had not once contacted him in the four years since their last meeting, and now Yajirobe could pretend no longer that he served a Daimyo.
Moving through small towns and big cities alike, Yajirobe inadvertently learned that samurai were becoming exceptionally rare. Anyone who saw him had to shout out, had to talk to him, had to ask him about his katana. And of course, every city had the resident badass who would start the conversation with a droll of ‘Haven’t seen many of your kind ‘round here’. Yajirobe’s sharp intuition led him to believe this was still a result of the war he had fought in years ago. Maybe there were no samurai left. Maybe he’d been part of the last school.
He hadn’t much of a plan to train for the upcoming tournament. The cat had already told Yajirobe he was amongst the elite of the world. He had killed Cymbal with a single swipe of his sword (kami how good did that thing taste). What motivation was there to get all sweaty and sore after that? Still, he made his way back toward the Academy in hopes that his old Daimyo remained alive and would be able to teach him something new. The trek itself was almost completely uneventful, merely filled with bear-hunting and following the white lupines back north. Yet this changed on a foggy day near the end of July, just a day before Yajirobe reached his destination. At this point in time, the samurai had picked up on someone tracking him, and much like his ambush of young Mark years prior, he planned to set a trap for the reckless fool.
It was nearly sundown, and the fog had remained. Yajirobe was in the lower swamplands, just a few dozen miles below the wine orchards just outside the great city. The fog was well accepted, as it provided ample cover for what Yajirobe was planning to do. He undid his pack, unrolled his sleeping bag, and got right in it, pretending to be asleep. He also had his katana stashed with him under the blanket to slice off the head of whoever was after him.
As sure as the fog was thick, footsteps became apparent. They squelched and suckered on through the mud, getting closer. The louder they became, the faster they became, and soon it sounded like someone was right on top of Yajirobe. He slowly unzipped his sleeping bag, careful to not make any noise with the action. Just as he had finished and laid his hands back upon his trusty scabbard, he saw a patch of orange – which was not unlike his own orange clothes that he had been given by his samurai master. Still, it was more logical to assume this was an enemy and not a fellow student (for all of them were dead or gone). He drew the sword swiftly and jumped up, yelling loudly and swinging wildly.
The other also let out an equally compelling cry and took to the air, attacking Yajirobe with a flying kick. This hit Yajirobe in the chest, causing him to fall backward into the swampy ground. Before he could raise his sword against the mysterious enemy, a mucky boot slammed down on his forearm, causing crushing pain, making Yajirobe let go of his sword. When he did, the man kicked the metal away. It was then, Yajirobe could get a good look at his face. It was Yamcha.
“Hey, Yajirobe!” he grinned. “I finally found ya! Didn’t think it would take this long… but whatever! We can get started now, right?”
“What do you want?” the grouchy samurai responded.
“You know master Korin said we should train together. You’re pretty powerful, so I guess he was right. It’ll be awesome.”
Yajirobe sat up, grumbling about the mess Yamcha had put him in. He was all muddy now! He looked up. No, this man, this fighter wasn’t better than him. He couldn’t just come here and kick Yajirobe around like that.
Yajirobe lunged at Yamcha, catching the taller by surprise. They rolled back into a brackish pond, trading blows. Yajirobe was in no mood for what had just happened, and with every righteous blow he leveled on that self-proclaimed fighter, he grew angrier. Flipping off of Yamcha’s chest before hitting the water, Yajirobe landed on the edge of the pond. He fell down into position and waited for Yamcha to attack.
“Yajirobe… stop… Hang on, man…” Yamcha began. “We’re on the same side!”
The samurai wouldn’t hear it. He ran forward, jumping in the air. Then, he came down on Yamcha’s head with clubbed fingers. Yamcha let out a gasp of pain, staggering back while Yajirobe smacked him with several punches across the face. He was too dazed by that jump attack to see clearly; his eyes were covered with dark spots, and between flashes of bronze and orange, he hadn’t much time to dodge. Yajirobe then knocked out Yamcha’s knees, sending him falling. But before the taller man hit the ground, Yajirobe grabbed onto Yamcha’s hair and threw him to the sky. Then, he turned around, ran back, and gave himself room for momentum. By the time Yamcha came back down, Yajirobe was in a full sprint, and he connected a head-butt right into the falling Yamcha’s back.
Spitting up blood and shaking in pain, Yamcha tried his best to stand back up. Already Yajirobe was attacking again, this time with his feet. Yamcha blocked Yajirobe and kicked him, spinning him around. He elbowed the samurai across the face, then lowered his shoulder and barreled right into him. The two locked into blows, with Yajirobe being clearly faster. He slapped and scooped and blocked away every single attack Yamcha threw at him. He didn’t even seem to be using his full power. Yamcha was amazed. He knew Goku and Tien were the strongest… but Yajirobe? He wouldn’t have guessed. Yajirobe hit him across the face, causing him to fly back into a bunch of tall grass.
He double-kicked Yajirobe away and stood up, thinking madly about what he could do to win. Wiping away a trail of blood running down his forehead, Yamcha squatted down and threw his arms out. He was breathing hard, yeah, but he was grinning too. Flinging his arms in either direction, Yamcha created several afterimages, which were exact copies of his body. Yajirobe had to stop and look carefully. He hadn’t seen this move before, and he couldn’t sense energy, so it was not easy to detect which was the real Yamcha. He stepped forward, putting his bet on the one on the left. He swung high, jumping in, but it was just an afterimage. He tripped from his own momentum, and within half a second, Yamcha was on him. He grabbed the samurai by the shoulders and punched him across the face, pushing off with both feet, and then punched Yajirobe deep in the gut. Having the wind knocked out of him, Yajirobe couldn’t do much but stand there, sputtering, mouth agape, in an almost a full-on apoplectic fit. Yamcha took this as his time to try his most impressive move: The Wolf Fang Fist. With a move like that, nothing could go wrong.
He hunkered down and began charging up his ki. Yajirobe would have sworn he saw a figure of a wolf shaping around Yamcha’s figure if he were a bettin’ man. But that kind of magic was not real. It was just a trick.
The time it took to charge up this attack, however, gave Yajirobe enough time to catch his breath and look around. He saw part of his katana beneath the mud a few feet off, so he ran over to get that. Behind him, Yamcha let out a howl like a rabid animal. Yajirobe only had seconds to get to his sword. The svelte figure of Yamcha streamlined himself into a pointed line and then dove toward Yajirobe. The samurai stopped, plucking up the hilt of his sword. Yamcha had his arms out and was running clean at him. There wasn’t time to move. Yamcha was on him, jumping just then, and giving the samurai no chance to get away. Instead, Yajirobe, wanting to escape (otherwise) certain deep scratches, swung his blade twice. Both times hit Yamcha on the cheek, creating an X like cut on the man’s soft cheek. At once, Yamcha screamed out in pain and forgot about his Wolf Fang Fist, instead crashing straight to the ground. He was bleeding pretty good.
Yajirobe sheathed his sword, then returned to his sleeping bag. “Now leave me alone.”
“Wh-at… why Yajirobe? Why’d ya have to cut me up?! We were supposed to be training!”
“No,” Yajirobe corrected him while pulling out a pork bun from his sack, “you came and attacked me.”
Yamcha was covered in blood and had his bag open, searching for something to fix his wound. Clearly, his feeble attempts at bandaging himself up were proving messy. “I-I already told you, man! Korin made us training partners!”
Yajirobe shook his head. “I’m not training with you.”
“Well, too bad. I’m not going anywhere!”
And the two continued their groveling toward one another as the sun fully set and they were drenched in blackness. Yajirobe, being ever the master of prescience, decided to go to bed, for he knew he didn’t want to oversleep around this swarthy fellow, and he had places to go. But he found it very hard. Aside from Yamcha’s whining and whimpering while he had stitched his wound back together and bandaged it all up, Yamcha had the most annoying idiosyncrasies when he slept; not only would he snore, but he would occasionally howl like he had during his one attack. Yajirobe got almost no sleep.
In the morning, he was so exhausted that Yajirobe couldn’t even be bothered to complain about Yamcha still being there. After packing his things, he got up and prepared to make the last short walk to the Academy, and ever was Yamcha there to keep him company. Yajirobe yawned all his worries away.
It was all gone. All, all gone. Most of the buildings were buried under moss and weeds. Yajirobe walked in silence as he passed under the gates now made of vines and looked around. The grass had grown tall and wild. Where once he had trained on crisply trimmed and regulated areas, there was no regulation remaining. Quite simply, the entire place was a mess, though he suspected it could be an oasis for traveling gypsies. Walking through it all, he found no signs of life, no sign that anybody had been around this place recently.
Yamcha had followed him in and refrained from talk. Perhaps he was still sore in the jaw from the deep cuts Yajirobe had given his otherwise flawless face. Perhaps he didn’t quite realize the significance of this place. No matter, he stayed back.
Yajirobe had spent less than a year here. Yet, it had seemed like his entire life. Before he had trained to be a samurai, Yajirobe had been nothing; he lived off garbage and hopes and handouts. So unimportant had all of it been, that truly Yajirobe felt like the time he spent here, in this place, had been his entire life. It was amazing, breathtaking, when he thought that he was the only one who got through. Anders, nameless children 1 and 2, Brian… they were all dead. They had died trying to become what he had become. And Harotu had run away like the coward he was. Yajirobe was it. He was the only samurai. His master was gone now, too. He was the only one left of that time. He was the only person who knew about what had happened here.
He wandered back to the one building left standing, which was Elijah’s house. Entering inside, he found it to be much as he had left it. The bed looked the same. In fact, the stool that Mark had been sitting on when he last saw him was in the same place. But the bed and it were empty; abandoned. Elijah had spoken of an Ox-king. Maybe that’s where he had gone. Yajirobe knew of no such man, for the first mentioning of him was just moments before he had left. With a name like that, though, Yajirobe had no plans of seeking him out. And Mark, that little devil, Yajirobe could only guess what happened to him. Most likely he’d become a beggar, pitifully pitiable, sitting in a dusty hole without recognition nor importance. Well, one could hope.
Yajirobe went back outside to the crisp new day. Without his old Daimyo, he hadn’t much to do. His entire journey had hinged upon the fact that Elijah was here and could train him some more. He was very disappointed that he was alone amongst the ruins, that no sententious man was lurking around.
He returned to the gate and made way back to Orange Star City, through the old forest he had so frequently traversed. Yamcha’s presence was becoming, sadly, ever more cogent, and Yajirobe was having more trouble ignoring him. The man’s sore but proud pantomime was clear enough. They would have to train, somehow, someway. Yamcha wouldn’t let him get far without another battle. And they were a long way from Korin Tower. He wanted to put it off as long as he could. He didn’t like Yamcha.
Orange Star city was quite different from when Yajirobe had last been there. For one, there was a new butcher shop open not a block from where the old one had been. Alas, he couldn’t bother going in; he was broke. The rest of the city had been cleaned up since the General Blue debacle. In fact, the streets and buildings looked so new that he didn’t recognize half of them. But most importantly, there was a new feature throughout the city which Yajirobe had neither seen before nor expected; posters, and they were everywhere.
They were of street-fighters, the noblest of professions. Manotaur, Bastion Booger, M.I. Smooth, Tugboat, Mr. Satan, Ze Gangsta, and the most famous one: The Blue Meanie. They were plastered about every window on every building, advertising themselves, their victories, their accomplishments, and their upcoming fights. The entire city had devolved into a street-fighting mentality. Yajirobe would not.
Assuming Yamcha had money (he better, Yajirobe thought), they made way to a restaurant. Before they could go inside the nearest one, however, the two were swept up in a crowd filled with excessive pink and yellow and screams and sparklers. Then they were thrust about, and the two poor martial artists found themselves face to face with a hodge-podge street fight. As the people chanting around them made them aware, the two fighters were Mr. Satan and The Blue Meanie. This was amateur hour, pure and simple. Yamcha smirked through his pain. These two were just pathetic little men. How he would like to show them a real fight. A world-class fight.
Mr. Satan was a young man with curly black hair and a thick chin. His broad chest and large muscles behooved him. “This fight won’t last more than a minute!” he proudly predicated to the roars of the crowd, laughing ever on.
The Blue Meanie didn’t say a word. He wore a blue mask and had blue hair, which is probably where his name came from. Instead, he just circled around the taller underdog. The crowd roared again, and a self-proclaimed referee, a mousy man in a black-and-white striped shirt, jumped in the ring, screaming ‘Begin!’.
The Blue Meanie snaked toward Mr. Satan with his arms outstretched. His cape was out, and he looked pretty menacing. He moved closer and closer to Mr. Satan, who just stood there with his hands on his hips, beaming at the crowd. When his opponent got to him however, Mr. Satan impressively dodged a high kick, whirling around the man and hand-chopped into the man’s neck. At once, The Blue Meanie fell over, unconscious, and the referee blew his whistle. Mr. Satan had won. It was great.
“Ha ha, he didn’t have much in him, I told ya!” Satan boomed. “What a maroon!”
The crowd screamed back their love for him.
After the fight, the energy died with The Blue Meanie’s career, and Yajirobe was happy to have a little quiet. The crowd dispersed at once, being led away by the victor. Yajirobe had thought Mr. Satan looked familiar and his fighting style was too. But the samurai couldn’t think from where he’d seen this person before. It was puzzling. In just a moment, it was him and Yamcha again. That hapless man. He wasn’t looking forward to training with him at all.
Yet the most striking thing about that fight had not been the vague familiarity of Mr. Satan, nor his prowess on the street. No. It had been about The Blue Meanie. Yajirobe couldn’t get the image of him out of his mind. The blue mask, the blue cape, the blue hair. It was so very rad. Despite just watching probably the single greatest upset Orange Star City Street Fighting would ever see, Yajirobe could only think about the mask. He was going to be in a tournament. He was going to be fighting like this. Not only would a mask look amazing, but it would hide his identity. Nobody would know it was him. That way he wouldn’t get any fan mail or people bothering him for autographs! Yes, it was the perfect plan.
Yajirobe’s hunger for food was gone, thus leading him away from the restaurant. He turned to the right and moved toward the market, which housed many local shops. The closest one to him had all sorts of cheap things; toys, clothes, balloons. But he saw what he wanted hanging from the first window. It was a red mask with blue lining. He moved up to it, grabbing it quickly before anyone else could. Looking it over, he found the price tag.
Yajirobe went numb.
With Yamcha watching him in befuddlement, Yajiroble went up to the cashier and drew his three coins. Yes, he had enough for the mask. He could buy it. Finally, he had found something he wanted. Finally. These three coins which had plagued him so much over the years would be used. He had always had them, since the beginning of this long journey, and never had he anything to spend them on. Well here he was, finally getting rid of them. And it wasn’t even on food.
“I’ll take the mask.”
Yajirobe tore through the plastic wrapping and hastily threw on the mask. It fit all right. Then, he went back to Yamcha and stared him down.
“Hey, nice mask there, bud,” Yamcha laughed.
Yajirobe looked up at him. He had once thought that becoming a samurai would be impossible. He had once thought holding the power he held, having the abilities he had would be impossible. The samurai were gone. Elijah had said it himself; their time was over. But Yajirobe was not gone. He was not spent. He was a samurai, and he would proudly display that. He would honor his Daimyo in the tournament. If Yamcha was to be his training partner, he would work with it. Despite what he thought of Yamcha, he knew that without training, he would not win the tournament. And without winning the tournament, none of this would matter. It would all be for nothing, surely.
“Let’s go train then,” Yajirobe replied, not completely apropos.
Yamcha grinned and patted him on the shoulder, “All right! Finally!” And Yajirobe led him out of there, wearing his mask as proudly as The Blue Meanie had minutes before. But unlike the Meanie, he planned on winning. He was in a class of his own, and he’d only get better, if he felt like it.
Yajirobe could think of no better punching bag for the next three years than the man to his side.
(Cue Missed The Boat)
Today was August 2nd in the age seven hundred fifty-three.
- Scarred For Life - Again, another common saying. This is in reference to Yajirobe cutting Yamcha's cheek, and is not a very serious name.
- This part has the fewest sections of any chapter at only 3.
- "Bygones be gone!" was a pre-written phrase.
- "Korin, the wise master, had only days ago convinced Yajirobe to show his worth, his highest quality." - this is a reference to Samwise Gamgee's quote about Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings".
- “That’s ridiculous,” Korin said, “it’s borderline cumulus...” - That is a phrase of my own creation.
- Tien and Krillin (with a little help from his friend) are training partners." is a reference to "A Little Help From My Friends" by The Beatles.
- Korin really offers a level of comic relief unseen in the previous chapters. This creates a tonal shift from the darker few chapters (and it's quite welcome, in my opinion).
- Korin is an instigator much like the other main characters throughout. Elijah, Daniel, Makare, and Naigo all instigated things, whether they are considered good or evil. The newest authoritative figure, Korin, is no different. This is a recurring theme throughout Spindlerun.
- Floccinaucinihilipilification is by far the longest (real) word I've ever used in writing.
- By this point in the story, there were still some words on my wordsheet that I hadn't used. I used every last one that was left here, which is why a lot of weird words suddenly pop up (particularly near the beginning of the chapter).
- It is important to note that Yajirobe sees, first-hand, that there aren't many samurai left. The group that Makare gathered was basically it. That was the last great battle of the samurai. And Yajirobe came out as the sole victor. But more importantly, this shows that the time of the samurai has passed. In the early chapters, they fight to survive, to stay relevant in a world maturing past them. And they fail. Yajirobe doesn't actively act as a samurai; he rarely uses his katana. So they did die. That is one of the main stories told in Spindlerun - the death of the samurai movement. The movement just couldn't keep up with martial artists and ki users.
- "Yamcha took this as his time to try his most impressive move: The Wolf Fang Fist. With a move like that, nothing could go wrong." - there is so much sarcasm in this passage. The Wolf Fang Fist never works. No one is ever scared of it, either.
- Yajirobe thinking that ki was magic and trickery is similar to Mr. Satan's thought process on the same matters.
- The sole purpose of having Yajirobe and Yamcha fight was to reach the end, with Yajirobe cutting Yamcha's cheek twice with his katana. In canon, Yamcha mysteriously got the scar on his cheek between the training and the tournament. It's never explained in canon. So I felt like I could give it a go. It makes logical sense the way I worked it out. Originally, I was planning on writing an entire story just for Yamcha's scars. It was going to feature Dabura and his sword, but I never wrote this (mainly because Dabura last came to Earth (before the Majin Buu Sagas) hundreds of years before Yamcha's birth).
- I find it absolutely hilarious that Yamcha howls in his sleep. I didn't base it off of anything. He has a move called "Wolf Fang Fist", so that was my inspiration.
- Yajirobe's hate of Mark is funny. His prediction is so painfully off that I'm mocking Yajirobe with it. No, Mark did not grow up to be a beggar. He grew up to be World Champ, a title of renown which Yajirobe never acquired.
- Many of the names of fighters on the posters in the cities were created by me, though they were influenced by an article I read about the 50 worst WWE character names. Notice how I mention Mr. Satan in passing. It's subtle, but it's important. Yajirobe wouldn't know Mr. Satan by name. He focused on The Blue Meanie, because that's an awesomely terrible name.
- I think the Mr. Satan fight is cool because it shows him before he's famous. He's still a streetfighter at this point; he's not very famous or renowned. Yet, he wins the fight and boasts an air of confidence and bravado that just seems Satan-like, almost proto-Satan. This scene primarily closes out Mr. Satan's role in the story, showing that he is well-off, despite losing his brother a few years prior.
- “Ha ha, he didn’t have much in him, I told ya!” Satan boomed. “What a maroon!” - What a maroon was pre-written. This came from an episode of Fails of the Weak where Geoff said just that phrase. I know he got it from Bugs Bunny, but I did not.
- I like how Yajirobe doesn't know who Mr. Satan is, although he feels the man is familiar. I think this is mainly due to Mr. Satan having won convincingly. Yajirobe would never think that Mark could do that, so his bias prevents him from seeing - quite literally!
- Spindlerun is a story about tying in multiple plot points with the same event. The ending is no different. As Mr. Satan wins his fight, ending Mark's role in the story and showing the beginning of the emergence of Mr. Satan, Yajirobe focuses on his opponent, The Blue Meanie, who wore a mask. That guy and that guy alone is what convinces Yajirobe to buy a mask. It's funny, in a way, that Yajirobe thinks that masks like that look cool. It just speaks to his character.
- I love how Yajirobe assumes he'd get fanmail and autograph requests from simply entering the World Martial Arts Tournament.
- The ultimate story in being told in Spindlerun is not about Yajirobe's growth, nor about anybody's sacrifices or anything. It was a tale of how Yajirobe got his mask for the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. It only took about 50,000 words to tell.
- The thing about the zeni is crucial to the story. I built up the zeni several times throughout earlier chapters. Yajirobe always carried them, looking for something to buy. But he could never use them; they were too few to pay for anything. But they bookend the story. Spindlerun opens with Yajirobe and his zeni and it closes with him and his zeni. I knew this is how I wanted to end the story before I even started it, hence why I did so much lead up to it.
- Yajirobe spending the zeni signifies the end of his old life. He had those before the story began. So him spending them effectively gets rid of his last ties to the old Yajirobe. As soon as he spends them and puts on the mask, his confidence shoots through the roof. He wants to train with Yamcha then, and he wants to become World Champion.
- It's ironic that Yajirobe is driven to become World Champion in this last chapter, when Mark, Mr. Satan, will eventually become that. Yajirobe doesn't even make it past the preliminaries. So in a way I mock him throughout the last few paragraphs as he builds up his abilities and his importance and the importance of the tournament. In truth, it matters very little to him in the end, and he doesn't end up as one of the strongest people. But he does get to wear that mask during his preliminary rounds, so it isn't a total loss.
- I was big into Modest Mouse while writing this story. That explains the secondary theme being "Gravity Rides Everything" and the montage song (the only in-text song, mind you) being "Parting of the Sensory". The ending song is also a Modest Mouse song, being "Missed The Boat". I don't think there could have been a better song to end the story.
Spindlerun was one of my most ambitious pieces. I used a canon character as the protagonist and surrounded him mostly with fanon characters. I worked hard to get this story's plot perfect before writing. As mentioned above, I spent considerable time just drafting outlines for each chapter. Additionally, I did untold amounts of research for the various characters I wanted to include in the story. Mr. Satan, Launch, General Blue, Korin, and Yamcha were all researched quite a bit so I could be sure I could include them. I also had to do quite a bit of research on the Dragon Balls to see which of the seven I could use. And finally, I had to actually do lots of research on samurais, how they train, their rank structure, what weapons they carry, and how they would act. All of this research and preparation lent itself to a good story, in my opinion.
The writing is nigh flawless. I changed very little of it in my final read-through. Considering it's a very long story at over 50,000 words, this is a pretty good accomplishment. I was able to use numerous uncommon and (in many cases) downright rare words not only to give my story more elegance and finesse, but also to expand my own vocabulary. No story is very good if it does not make the writer better - for that is what I believe is a goal with every story: to become better. Spindlerun certainly did that. While it drastically improved my storytelling abilities, it also allowed me to become more comfortable in developing canon character personalities as well as my own fanon ones. And the writing, grammar, and dialogue formatting was also improved throughout writing.
I have almost not complaints in this story. If I were to go back, I would probably add in something about Harotu in the last chapter and would probably have a few more emotional moments with Yajirobe. But it's pretty much flawless as is. I think this story is about even with In Requiem, if not slightly better. It was fun to re-read, despite the length, and in the end, the main purpose of fan fiction (and writing in general) is entertainment. I think that Spindlerun succeeded massively in that area, as well as every other area of storywriting. Thus, I would give Spindlerun an S.
<---- Part 12.2
Part 14 ---->