When you offer your services as a mercenary figure, you are never certain what kind of jobs will be tossed your way; some are complicated and some are simple. For Neo, money was never truly a deal breaker for her regardless, but yet she found herself quite surprised when a commoner offered a rather large payment in exchange for her services in regards to a minor task.
A couple of deviants who had gone rogue from the militia stole this said commoner’s family ring and they wanted nothing more than to get it back. In fact, they were rather desperate in the matter. Uncertain of the true value of the ring, Neo accepted the offer out of kindness rather than temptation from gold. She thought, perhaps, that this heirloom was special in some way- maybe it was enchanted or something. Whatever the case, she would need to retrieve the item in order to quell her wondering.
The myrmidon left for the job come daybreak before the sun began to fully rise with the intent on covering as much ground as possible. Supposedly, one of the two thieves was a skilled mage and the other a lance-fighter. Neo kept running scenarios in her mind about how she could subdue both opponents if matters came to violence; she would have to be doubly cautious considering she was alone. Her targets were said to dwell in an old abandoned fort outside the perimeter of the nearby village and it was mentioned that no one in their right mind ventured too closely in fear of getting struck by magic or suddenly impaled.
Observing the crumbling foundation of this fort, Neo took a moment to scout around before daring the straightforward trek into it. Things were eerily quiet aside from the common sounds of nature itself. By the looks of things, you’d think that only ghosts roamed around these parts. A rustling sound in the grass from behind made the woman pivot on her heels with her blade drawn in an instant. She was now face to face with another person and it was unclear whether they were friend or foe.
“I wouldn’t dare another step if I were you,” she commented coarsely with the edge of her sword pointed towards the other. Her eyes gave them a quick glance over, “Who are you?”
The North Star was the North Star for both of them, but very little else was the same.
Vex had learned some of the stars from her mother, but the formal, unimaginative education she received from her father had little time for such fancies as astronomy. She and Vax, as they so often did, had to make their own way. They learned enough of the night sky to navigate and orient, and in the process, they gave their markers their own idiosyncratic names. Vax kept suggesting ridiculous things just to tweak her nose. Vex secretly named a constellation after Trinket, and told no one but the bear.
She was so used to her own understanding of the sky, in fact, that when Percy idly pointed out a constellation one night, the unfamiliar reference startled her.
“We’re definitely getting on toward winter,” he said, gesturing with one long finger. “The Hunter’s coming around again.”
“What?” Vex asked, peering up. He wasn’t wrong about the generalities, at least; she recognized late-season patterns in the sky, although she wasn’t about to tell Percy about Vax’s rather single-entendre labels for most of them. “Which one’s the Hunter?”
“You don’t know? I’m surprised. There, see—those four stars mark out his belt, and you can see the shape of the arms and legs, a little.”
“Oh.” Vex squinted, studying it. She supposed she could see that, although it took some imagination. “I used to call that the Chalice. The line for the belt was one side of the cup. Tilt your head the other way.”
“Hmm. Different constellations? I never read about that one.”
Vex’s lips twitched upward into a smile. “Trust you to have learned it all from books.”
“Where else? I studied charts, read all the myths. Or at least I thought I had.’
Vex laughed softly. They were standing shoulder to shoulder now, the cold night air making them both huddle up deep within their respective coats. She sidled just a little closer. “None of this was written down. It was just…between me and my brother, is all.”
Percy, his eyebrows lifting, turned to study her. Vex chose to blame her blush on the sting of the wind, and tossed her hair, deliberately uncaring. “We were inventive,” she told him. “And it served us just fine.”
“I’m sure it did.” His tone went slightly goading. “But you wouldn’t have heard about the Archer, then.”
She lifted her chin, watching Percy adjust his spectacles. A glint of pale light shone off the glass. “Look north-northeast,” he advised, “and a few degrees up from the mountains.”
Vex followed his guide. There, not so far from the vaguely bear-shaped cluster she’d picked out as a child, was a matrix of stars in no real shape that she could identify, at least at first. Percy pointed. “Do you see the arc and the line, just there? Tilt your head my way, you should be able to make it out.”
She did, bumping her head gently against his shoulder. “Do you see it?” he asked.
Vex, who was still picking out patterns, found herself distracted by the warmth of his voice so close to her ear. She hummed low in her throat. “Tell me more about it,” she said, prevaricating.
“Well. It was named after a woman of legend, typically over-accomplished in the way these things go, admired by all who knew her. But she had no intent of settling down for any suitor. She was more interested in the hunt, and in being free from all the expectations of society.”
“I’m liking this girl already.”
“She was known for her skill in archery, and it was said she could hit any target,” Percy went on. “So she took a bet one night, perhaps a foolhardy one, because her one known weakness was the temptation of gold…”
Vex turned just far enough to eye him. Percy might have smirked, just a little, but he kept on nevertheless.
“Her competitor tricked her. The bet was for the highest and furthest target, and he’d rigged the targets so that his could be seen to fall, but hers did not.”
“Did she put the next arrow through his eye?” Vex said, quirking an eyebrow. “After that, he’d deserve it.”
Percy chuckled. “No. But once she realized what he’d done, she went from feeling shamed to vowing she’d prove her superior skill to everyone. So she nocked another arrow and aimed it up at the sky. And while everyone watched, she shot so high she pierced one of the stars themselves, and it came plummeting back to earth as proof.”
“Good for her. Did it crush the cheating bastard? I hope it did.”
He grinned. “It might have.”
“And did she get the gold she was promised?”
“All the gold and more.”
Vex nodded in satisfaction. “I suppose naming the stars after you is a worthy enough prize. Along with proper payment, of course.”
“Indeed.” He pointed again. “See the shape of it? She’s taking aim. And where her arrow’s pointed—that’s Astira and Ocian marking out the shaft—there’s a little patch of void between the stars. It’s where the falling star used to be.” He leaned close again. “Do you see it now?”
Vex smiled softly. She did, if she tried. It was no different from the other constellations she used to invent, after all: a pattern of light, a spark, and a story, and there it was. She let her head rest against Percy’s shoulder once more.
“I think so,” she said. “And I like it.”
He made a small, inquisitive sound. She lifted her gaze to his again and teasingly asked, “Did you make that up just to humor me?”
It was quiet for a moment, out there in the chill. At last Percy smiled in a very Percy sort of way and admitted, “Well, I don’t have my books with me to prove it. So who’s to say?”
Vex poked him, and she laughed, but she also didn’t stop him when his arm came around to hold her. “Someday we’ll have to have our own marksmanship contest,” he said, while Vex contentedly nestled in against his side.
“You know I’ll win.”
“Oh, I’m betting on it.”
Vex smiled as she felt him kiss her brow. And in that moment, all the stars seemed to shine just a little bit brighter, all throughout the winter sky.
Etude House Play Color Eyes: 10 Color Palette Swatches and Review!
Super-popular Korean beauty brand Etude House has come up with 2 new 10-color palettes that take fashionable young women through all kinds of occasions, from school and work, to play.
The 10 colours in the So Hot Palette #1 include: Party Gold, Burning Red, Temptation, Naked, Pony Tail, Modern City, Chic Blue, All Night, Snow Queen and Military Khaki.
The 10 colours in the So Chic Palette #2 include Clutch Brow, Coco Brownie, Pop Champagne, French Kiss, Misty Rose, Diva, Glam Forest, Midnight Star, Sparkling Wine and Leopard Brown.
I don’t really need to say too much; these palettes are very smooth and pigmented and the swatches will speak for themselves! There are a couple of shades in each palette which will be less pigmented or chalkier than the others, but most of them are very rich and smooth. The sparkly shades are especially gorgeous and remind me of sparkly shadows from Japanese brands like RMK and Shu Uemura.
My personal favorite is for the So Chic palette (#2) because the shades are more wearable over all. If you prefer a few more dramatic shades like red and burgundy, then the So Hot palette (#1) is for you!
Both palettes are available from 2 Feb 2014 for S$37.90 each.
Last night, we love the delicate and floral red carpet look of Fan Bing Bing
in a pair of aquamarine
earrings (18 carats) featuring amethysts, tanzanites and white diamonds set in
18-karat white gold from our Temptations Collection
Take a closer look at our beautiful earrings worn by Magasi Nagasawa featuring orange sapphires, rubies, amethysts, tsavorites and white diamonds set
in platinum and 18-karat rose gold from our Temptations
Temptation = mind control. A thought enters the brain and, all of a sudden, it’s impossible to think about anything else. But is that how it all starts? That’s what the AXE Lab is trying to figure out.
Space Dandy is a dandy in space. His adventures do not seem at first glance to adhere to a traditional continuity; characters often die but never fail to reappear, with no direct reference to their fates or indeed any of the events of prior episodes. At first glance it seems as though Watanabe does not intend for there to be any overarching connection between episodes, as though he is simply riffing; anime series with total disregard for continuity are not unheard of. Theories further circulated among fans that the show exists in a multiverse, and each episode is in its own alternate universe, which is bolstered by the multiversal musings of the ending song, Hey, Everett, which references Hugh Everett III, an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics. This explanation fit the facts, but didn’t provide a whole lot of insight; without parallels or interactions between the alternate universes, the only thing this theory adds to the “riffing” concept is a trivial metaphysical framework.
But in episode 6, “The War of the Undies and Vests, Baby”, I was struck by a particular reference. As QT decides to abandon Meow and Dandy to their fates on the exploding planet, he says “Amen. Namu amida.” Looking up Namu amida, it seems to be a shortening of “namu amida butsu”, which is a traditional mantra from Pure Land Buddhism, a broad branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism and one of the most widely practiced traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. A blogger at Shin Ugly Blog writes: “‘NAMU AMIDA BUTSU’ is essentially nothing other than the entrusting mind of us sentient beings who rely on Amida to save us, bringing us to Buddhahood in the afterlife.” I am an outsider and a layperson in my knowledge of Buddhism, but thinking of this reference in terms of the many deaths of these characters brought to mind the Buddhist belief in the cycle of death and rebirth, and the literary tradition of the “Jataka” tales (which wikipedia defines: “These are the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear in them as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates.”) Aspects of the show started to make a little more sense through this interpretive framework, but my basis was so tenuous that I thought it entirely likely that I was reading too much into the show and making connections where they didn’t exist.
And then came episode 7, “A Race in Space Is Dangerous, Baby”. Space Dandy, inspired by jealousy at the heroic reception of a spaceship racing celebrity named Prince at Dandy’s favorite breastaurant, Boobies, enters a galactic grand prix. He ends up neck and neck with Prince, and, as a “last resort” (his third or fourth last resort of the episode) he detonates a payload of bombs to push him over the finish line, and- “The bomb that had been prepared…the fluctuation in the amount of electric charge…magnetic flux density…metric slug…unknown fuel [Dandy’s fuel tank was partially filled with assorted garbage]…all of those things miraculously combined by chance…and…the steamed dumpling bursts open!”
And we see a steamed dumpling, surrounded by a muddy mixture of garbage and fuel, open up and bloom like a lotus blossom. The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important texts of Mahayana Buddhism, and Gene Reeves writes “The symbolism of the lotus flower, rooted in mud and blooming in the air, is important for Mahayana Buddhism in general and for this Sutra.”
During a montage of transcendental imagery, we are told that Dandy “went faster than light and passed time, finally arriving in the distant future. And on the world 5.67 billion years in the future, what he saw…was…“
After declining the temptations of gold and glory, achieving an altruistic purpose in the process (Letting Adélie go in Episode 5),
By letting go of his earthly possessions(Discarding his magazines and junk to catch up to Prince in Episode 7),
Through Mastering the 7 Chakras,
Did Dandy attain true enlightenment, achieving the status of Buddha, achieving Nirvana, and truly becoming one with the flow of all things in the Formless Realm.
And he even got to keep the hair.”
But there’s still a further aspect of Buddhist thought at work here: Eschatology.
“Remember, Dr. Gel, [Dandy] is the one that holds the key to the Gogol Empire– no, to the entire universe.” -Admiral Perry
Just as every religion has a creation story (with occasional exceptions that prove the rule; Jainism, for example, has no “creation story” as such but its literature does include a text that is a dialogue on how the universe was pre-eternally existent and could not have been “created”), every religion also has some sort of prophetic account of the future of the world/the end of all things. Norse mythology has Ragnarok, Christianity has the “parousia,” the second coming of Christ, Islam has the 12th Imam (and also works in the return of Jesus), Hinduism has the Kali Yuga and the doctrine of cycles. Buddhism has Maitreya.
In Buddhism, “the” Buddha was Gautama, who was the first of this world to attain “Buddhahood” (a Buddha is a fully enlightened being). But it is taught that there will be another in this world to attain Buddhahood- Maitreya. Charles Upton in Legends of the End writes “The Mahayana Buddhists…assign Maitreya to the far distant Golden Age of the next [time] cycle, when the world will have finally recovered from the degeneration and apocalyptic end of this one; he does not inaugurate this cycle but only enters it when the time is ripe.” and the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism says that “Stalwart scholiasts have calculated that his rebirth will occur 5.67 billion years after the death of Sakyamuni [Gautama Buddha, who is said to have died sometime in the 5th century BCE]” 5.67 billion years in the future is exactly where Dandy traveled to and had a vision of a pompadoured Buddha. And Perry’s comments seem to bolster Dandy’s eschatological importance.
Upton writes that earthly power is also tied up in the final appearance of Maitreya. “Maitreya will appear during the reign of a world monarch, a chakravartin (‘turner of the wheel.’). …According to one story, [the king] will renounce his throne in order to follow Maitreya.” The 5.67 billion year wait seems to be due to the fact that “Such a conjunction between a Buddha and a chakravartin takes place very rarely.” The union of the world king and the messianic Buddha produces “the Buddhist version of the Hindu satyayuga or Golden Age, when worldly abundance and other-worldly bliss are not the opponents of final Liberation…but rather the disciples of it.” The Gogol Empire is a clear parallel to the world monarchy of Buddhist eschatology, and the rarity of the Maitreya to coincide with the chakravartin brings to mind the inability of the Gogol Empire to catch Dandy episode after episode.
As for the ending song about Mr. Everett, I know neither enough about Buddhism nor quantum physics to speak to the philosophical compatibility of ancient Buddhist metaphysics with the latest in quantum physics. However, without trying to pretend they fit together into a coherent cosmic worldview, one can simply interpret the alternate reality musings of the closing song as using the language of science to spin a metaphor for the infinite worlds spoken of by Gautama Buddha in the Apannaka Jataka- "Disciples,” the Buddha said “nowhere between the lowest of hells below and the highest heaven above, nowhere in all the infinite worlds that stretch right and left, is there the equal, much less the superior, of a Buddha.”
I am putting this forth solely as a proposal. The 5.67 billion year link seems pretty convincing to me, but there are still a lot of pieces to this that can’t be assembled at this point. Episodes 1 and 7 both end on huge explosions, and both end with “The End” whereas episodes 2-6 end on “To be continued…” What of the links between certain episodes? For example, in episode 6, QT abandons Dandy and Dandy rides an explosive shockwave; in episode 7, Dandy rides explosive shockwaves many times, and in the end abandons QT. What, if anything, does his crew represent? In Mahayana Buddhism a Buddha has three bodies: a physical body, a “reward-body” and a body which is the “embodiment of the truth itself”. Is there a correlation here? Can any spiritual progress towards Buddhahood be charted for Dandy across his rebirths? In some episodes he is extremely hedonistic and materialistic and cares nothing for collateral damage- in others he acts with compassion. Without a chronology to these “rebirths” it is difficult to make any claim of “progress.” Upton writes of one named Kashyapa, who was “a disciple of Shakyamuni who has remained in suspended animation through the ages until the time when he will emerge as herald of Maitreya.” Nothing I can think of yet correlates to Kashyapa, but the concept is such a classic scifi trope that it seems worth looking out for.
Only time will tell if any of what I argue here holds water.