This was the first story I wrote for I Wouldn't Want to Be a Fish Right Now. It was also the first idea I came up with for this collection (not counting How To Act Like a Professional Mercenary, which was somewhat conceptualized during the writing of a previous one-shot collection, A Trifling Matter). I came up with the idea for this one before I got to Upa's introduction in my rewatch of Dragon Ball. The reason why this story exists is simple: I dislike Upa to an immense degree. Only Chi-Chi and Chiaotzu are worse characters in the entire Dragon Ball universe in my opinion. I thought that having Upa fall off of Korin Tower and die in front of his wife and newborn daughter would be a most fitting end to his character.
There wasn't much planning involved for this story, as the idea was simple. It was not meant to be one of the longer stories in this collection. As well, I was highly motivated to write it, so there was not a lot of planning or outlining for this story, which was not true of the other wabi-sabi stories. All of the other ones were outlined scene by scene.
I wrote the first draft of this story on November 15, 2019, and it took me 57 minutes to do so. I edited it on April 8, 2020, two days after finishing the editing for One Word From The Crane and The Big Ugly. The editing process took an hour and sixteen minutes. It was slightly more difficult to edit this story than The Big Ugly, as I had written some things that were quite funny to me personally, but unprofessional prose-wise, and so needed to overhaul quite a bit of the prose for that reason.
This story lacked a strong wabi-sabi theme in its original draft. The two paragraphs about Upa drinking the black drink from the old woman (and then throwing it up, as was customary) were added in to strengthen that theme. Upa's thoughts about the past, Goku, and his father also evoke the wabi-sabi theme in relation to Korin Tower specifically.
This is the only story of the seven published one-shots (as of writing this commentary in July 2020) for I Wouldn't Want to Be a Fish Right Now that I have come back to and read three or four times since publishing it in April. It is my favorite of the first seven stories, but I will say that there are stories in the unpublished seven that I like more - particularly Insatiable and How To Act Like a Professional Mercenary. But yeah, I really liked this one at the time of writing it, and having read it a few times in recent weeks, it is pretty fresh in my memory, so I am confident in saying that this is my favorite of the first seven. On that note, let's dive into the endnotes.
Late, one foul night in the Sacred Land of Korin, the hero Upa vigorously copulated with some woman from his tribe whose name he had never learned. They had been married for twenty years, and she was twenty-five years his junior. She was trying to sleep, so like any self-respecting village chief, he decided to put a baby in her for the twelfth or thirteenth time (he had lost count). There were no surprises between them in this engagement. That wasn’t so hard when he turned her on her back and did her like a shaggy dog, although she moaned a lot, and thus, half the tribe was aware of what they were up to. Such was the cost of doing business, Upa knew.
“If we have a daughter this time, I’ll climb Korin Tower,” he boasted.
“You’ve been saying that for years, but all you have given me are sons.”
“I will put a daughter in you tonight, my plain-faced bride, or my father’s name isn’t Bora. I swear it on a handful of acorns and two or three kernels of maize.”
She gagged, pulling away, her slit drying up. “Damn it, Upa, don’t you ever brush your teeth?”
“Don’t you dare disrespect me in my own teepee, wife. I am the village chief!” he roared, grabbing her by the throat and flipping her over. Seeing her from behind once more warmed his aging blood.
About nine months later, a week before his sixtieth birthday, the bitch went into labor. During those months, Upa had lived with not a care in the world, for he was the leader of the Karinga, and that meant he got to sit around all day eating nuts and drinking wine under the Spear Tree. It was a laborious living; he suffered for his people. That day, out of nowhere, he heard his wife screaming in the distance, and his blood ran cold. His first thought was that she had been sleeping with his neighbor Uddey. She went on like that for a while, though–much longer than with him–so he discounted that as a possibility. Eventually, about three hours later, he decided to get up and go see what was the matter, for she had not stopped her pained howling the entire time.
There the hero Upa found his wife lying in bed, holding their infant daughter, a trio of midwives kneeling by her side. His wife wasn’t smiling, wasn’t looking down at the beauty she was holding (with how many she had churned out by this point, she had gotten over her sense of motherly affection). She was staring at him bitterly.
The woman had a whiny, nasally voice that made him zone out sometimes. “You said you would climb the tower if we had a daughter. You promised me. Well, look at your daughter, Upa.”
“Oh, golly, she’s beautiful, wife. I love her just as much as the other ones. What’s her name?”
“Listen to me, you dingbat. That’s not what I’m talking about. You promised to climb Korin Tower.”
The midwives shuddered. A cold sweat began trickling down his spine. Curse that whore for her memory. I completely forgot about it. I haven’t trained a day in the last nine months. I can’t upset her now; it was a promise. Nothing anyone can do about that. I have to climb it. Father tried, and he failed, but I’ve always been better than him, so I’ll do fine.
He had no clue if they had noticed any of that internal dialogue leaking into the emotions of his face. “Very well, wife, I’m going now. On my honor, you will not see me again until I’ve reached the pinnacle of that tower.”
“Now? It’s a quarter past five. The sun is already sinking.”
“Ah, that doesn’t bother me. I can do it. I’m the biggest, strongest guy in the whole tribe. I haven’t lost an arm wrestling match since I was eleven.”
Her face softened. “We’ll be waiting. Best get a move on it, love.”
Laughing nervously, he sidled out. The midwives were muttering to one another before he had left. That was some real disrespect, the kind that his father would have never tolerated, bless his poor liver. He would deal with them when he got back. Maybe off the dopamine rush of completing his life’s dream, he would be able to think more clearly.
There was nobody around, except for an old woman who was picking at the uneven blades of grass, making everything more uniform. That was alright too. He didn’t need a big crowd. They would be gathered by the time he returned back down. Hopefully that trip wouldn’t take as long as going up.
He gulped, looking up. The tower rose far into the sky, becoming lost in the clouds before he could see the end of it. His father had told him that he had spent hours climbing it before giving up. With how strong Bora had been, that meant this would be a long climb. It would probably take him most of the night. It had taken Goku less than a day. He was surely stronger than Goku had been at the time. He was a fit and muscled man, perhaps a little beyond the prime of his life, but that was nothing to be concerned about. He knew he could do this.
The old crone could tell he was about to climb by how he was looking at the tower, how he was pacing before it nervously. She offered him an ancient carved shell-cup of their tribe’s famous black drink, and he took it without question. Moments later, he vomited up a prized bottle of vintage wine and some half-digested nuts. Collapsing to his knees, Upa gasped, his lips tingling, his legs feeling shaky. His stomach growled and he vomited again onto the grass. Feeling weak, he wiped his mouth and struggled to his feet.
This purification ritual was a sacred rite in his village, and was not to be questioned. It would surely cleanse him of his demons, allowing him to climb all the way to the top. What did he care if his stomach was rumbling and he felt desperately thirsty? That only meant he wouldn’t have time to dawdle on his way up.
And so he climbed. It was really not so terribly awful. There were carvings and ornamentations of rock that he could use as finger holds. He scurried up to cloud level before the sun had set. He was making good time, and he had hardly broken a sweat. Confidence emanated from him.
Beyond the clouds, however, it was dark and wet and cold. As Upa did not deign to wear a shirt, he was shivering within seconds, despite moving so quickly and actively. The rocks were slick, and he couldn’t stop the shaking. Still, he had a promise to keep, so he had to keep going.
On and on he went. Perhaps two hours passed, perhaps three. He could no longer feel his fingers, nor most of his other extremities. What parts of his body still had feeling in them throbbed in pain. He was an old man. He could not stop, for to stop would mean he was a quitter like his father. Upa wasn’t about to be the second straight failure in his bloodline. The ancestors were counting on him, allegedly.
It was not long after that Upa grasped onto an outcropping of rock, not unlike the last ten thousand times. This time, his finger slipped, though he had already propelled himself upwards. Crashing down against the side of the tower, he frantically reached out to grab onto anything he could. His fingers felt the rock, numb though they were, scraped against it, and slid off, ripping off one of his fingernails in the process, and he was falling.
He had two minutes to think about what he had done, maybe a little less.
A crowd had gathered at the base of Korin Tower. Upa’s wife, holding her shrieking daughter, was sitting on a chair outside of her teepee, watching the excitement build. Torches had been lit, and a great feast was being prepared.
“I saw him climb up there, I did! Chief Upa’s going all the way to the top,” the wrinkled hag was telling the growing crowd. “He’ll be down soon, I’d wager.”
And just like that, his scream audible as a circling vulture, and growing louder by the half-second, Upa came down, landing on his back in the grass before his teepee, his body exploding apart upon impact. For a moment, there was silence. Then, several onlookers ran off wailing. Upa’s wife spit out her chewing tobacco and patted her daughter on the back. The baby was no longer crying. Instead she looked on at the freshly-made corpse that had landed before them with a peaceful, inquisitive gaze.
Her mother smiled weakly and scooped another finger’s worth out of the tin.
- This story was named as such because this is Upa's greatest feat in his life.
- I think all nights on the Sacred Land of Korin are foul. It's an awful place to live, and it is populated by an equally foul tribe of do-nothingers.
- It goes without saying that Upa is not actually a hero. He's never done anything to earn that title. I call him that to mock that fact.
- Upa's wife was married to him when she was ten years old (and he 35) because that sounds appropriately horrific for Upa in my opinion.
- Upa of course turned his wife on her back and did her doggy style because to look upon her plain face would make the blood drain from his penis. Seeing her from behind is basically not seeing her at all, allowing him to focus entirely upon her hole, which is a good memory for him and thus is enough to rouse his blood. Remember that Upa is 59 years old at this point, so getting an erection is not always the easiest thing for him to do, especially considering that he's been having sex with his wife for 25 years. That's a long time to remain sexually excited by the same deteriorating body.
- Upa's boast about finally having a daughter was perhaps a drunken one, but I think also, since all of his previous children were male (a fanon determination by me), he was fairly certain this one would be too.
- Upa's daughter is more likely to be his thirteenth offspring than fourteenth, but there is no way to know for certain.
- Upa has never brushed his teeth in his entire life.
- I utilized a bit of the lore established in Dragon Ball Online when describing the territory of the Karinga Tribe for I don't think it contradicts anything in the manga or anime. Considering that in the anime/manga we don't see any other members of Bora's tribe aside from him and his son, this was useful for giving some small, but necessary development to the area, making it feel like an actual tribe with a long history and not just something slapped together in two seconds.
- It is fitting, in my opinion, that Upa became somewhat of an alcoholic. Perhaps a bit too on-the-nose of a reference to the historical past, but I like seeing this fuck suffer.
- It goes without saying that Upa does not, indeed, suffer for his people in any meaningful capacity.
- Upa was named after the dog of Toriyama's assistant, Takashi Matsuyama's. For this reason, I named someone else in his tribe "Uddey", an almost equally hideous name based off of the name of one of my dogs, Buddy.
- Upa has never had sex with his wife for longer than five minutes. Because of his impatience, he started flipping her over on her back so he wouldn't have to take anywhere close to five minutes to finish.
- Upa took 3 hours to go see his wife not only because he was lazy but because he was drunk, and time passes by quickly for those who are wasted (at least in my experience).
- Upa's wife is a real proper cunt in my opinion. I wrote it so that she wanted Upa to climb Korin Tower with the hope that he would fail and die. Getting the prestige of climbing it, especially at his age, wouldn't do anything for them as a family. She just wanted him gone; she couldn't stand him anymore.
- "I love her just as much as the other ones." - I don't think Upa knows the names of any of his offspring, nor of his wife, as none of them were as notable as his father Bora, so why should their names be remembered in the annals of history? For that very reason he saved his memory for more important topics, such as which was the best wine flavor, and if acorns were tastier than maize (a very important thing to remember in my opinion).
- Upa didn't have to keep the promise, for to do so would be to throw his life away. However, he was so worried about breaking the promise that he did so anyways. There is a bit of social commentary going on there that applies not just to the Karinga Tribe.
- I don't think Upa has ever risen to the level of his father (a relatively low-bar to be fair), but in his delusional, drunken state, he has built up quite the ego.
- "I haven’t lost an arm wrestling match since I was eleven." - this is likely because Upa masturbates excessively.
- Upa should not have climbed at night - even his wife, who wanted him dead, was willing to let him start in the morning. Again, Upa's ego deludes him into thinking climbing the tower will be no big deal, despite the history of failure surrounding those who have attempted to climb it in the past.
- The midwives openly disrespect Upa by muttering about him in his presence because I don't think anyone would respect him in that tribe.
- It's implied in this story that Bora died of liver failure.
- "There was nobody around, except for an old woman who was picking at the uneven blades of grass, making everything more uniform." - there is great folly in trying to make artificial and correct the unevenness of nature. Some wabi-sabi commentary here in which, I suppose, I am arguing for its style of beauty being superior to what the old woman is attempting.
- Nobody gathered for Upa because he and his wife hadn't told anyone that he would climb Korin Tower if they had a daughter. And at that point, only Upa, his wife, and the midwives knew about the baby girl. Again, this is pure delusion by Upa. He expects unreasonable things to happen throughout this story.
- Upa is delusional to think he ever got close to Goku's power level at the time that the boy climbed Korin Tower. He wasn't even close to that guy in strength. His power level at this point is probably no higher than 15, and that's being extremely generous.
- The ancient carved shell cup evokes a sense of wabi-sabi, a sense of greater beauty around the ceremony of climbing the tower and its architecture, that has little to do with Upa himself. He is kind of spoiling the beauty of the land and culture in my opinion.
- The purification ritual ensured that Upa did not have enough strength to reach the top, even if he would have otherwise done so. What a stupid fucking ritual. However, Upa would not have reached the top even with a full belly. I had him vomit here in the second draft not only to strengthen the wabi-sabi theme, but to give good reason (not just that he's weak and he sucks) for Upa failing so early into his climb.
- Korin Tower itself looks really interesting and evokes a sense of wabi-sabi within its patterning. I wonder who built it. That must've been a helluva lot of work. I sure hope that person could fly, at least.
- "Upa wasn’t about to be the second straight failure in his bloodline. The ancestors were counting on him, allegedly." - I've said it before and I'll say it again: Upa is nothing compared to his father. What a joke this guy is. I wrote him like this to mock him. I think most of his delusions come from the alcohol, but that can't be the whole reason.
- Upa lost a fingernail when he fell just to give him one extra bit of pain before he dies.
- The time it takes Upa to fall (roughly 2 minutes) is a spoiler about how high up he got. I calculated that number precisely; it's not just a throwaway line.
- “He’ll be down soon, I’d wager.” - she could not have said anything more perfect than that, in my opinion.
- My final insult to Upa is that not even his baby daughter was horrified by his death. She, of course, had no idea what was going on, but you would think seeing a body explode in front of her would frighten her.
- The final line of this story was added in during the editing phase. The first draft ended with the line about Upa's daughter calmly looking at his body.
This is my favorite of the first seven stories in I Wouldn't Want to Be a Fish Right Now. It's a very brutal comedy about what a shit character Upa is, and so is probably not for everyone. But this is exactly what I think of him, and exactly what he deserves. I sure hope he never appears again in any official media, which is why I set this in Age 801 - hopefully there's never another Dragon Ball anime/manga around that time period that features him, as I would very much like to keep this story forever canon to my universe. It is a treasured story of mine, and I am very glad to have written it. The prose especially is funny to me, but also the way I wrote the dialogue allowed me to show just how little I think of Upa. He's lame and stupid and altogether boring, and I tried to make that reflect in the way he spoke. Hopefully that worked.
<---- Part 130
Part 132 ---->