“You know what I hate?” Hikaru grumbled as they shoved a mouthful of spaghetti with chunky red sauce into their ravenous mouth.
“ith how ahm subshegged to ahhl theeth st–coughcough-steereeothypeth…” They continued and chewed slovenly and before swallowing the large mouthful.
I swallowed in disgust at the toddler-like mess on their face and tried to ignore the noodle that hung off of their chin. “Mhmm. Sterotypes are bad.”
They nodded, shoved a large meatball into their face as if they had never eaten a meal in their life. Mercifully it was too big for them to attempt speech.
Then, after they downed half a can of Coors Light and emitted a loud, voluminous belch, they chuckled. “That one had company.” They then chewed a bit of regurgitated food and swallowed again.
“So… stereotypes…?” I said, wishing that I hadn’t taken them up on the ‘Will interview for food’ sign.
“Yeah. In a mo, k? First let’s talk about who I am. I’m a gender-fluid human being of Japanese descent. I love all kinds of food, cultures and customs, and get a lot of crap from my folks about… like literally everything about me. I’m ‘too Western’ and ‘too violent’ and ‘have bad manners’ and ‘shouldn’t hate children’ and ‘should respect my elders’ and-- my least favorite ‘too good-looking to be without a man’… because somehow that makes me bad?” They sucked some of the spices and random meat-bits out of their teeth, then washed it down with the other half of the beer. “You gonna eat your garlic bread?” They gestured.
“No, no… it’s all yours.” Suddenly, I felt very much on a diet.
“Then… I meet people, even potential romantic partners, and they see my name and ask me if I knew any good Haiku. You know how insulting that is, how personally and culturally demeaning?” They challenged, as if they expected me to ask, also. (Well, NOW I DID want to ask…)
As a self-identified peace-maker and grand soother-of-conflict, I tried a different approach. “First, let me differentiate myself. What pronouns should I use for you in my article for the Forum, and what questions will upset you the least?”
“You’re not one of them liberal hippie-type white male passive-aggressors who try to gloss over thousands of years of oppression by saying ‘hashtag-not-all-men’ are you?” Hikaru challenged.
“To answer your question, I pretty much try to take care of myself, lead by example and do what I can to keep the peace. I’m not above disliking individuals for their choices, mind you, but I don’t think on the larger scale or try to ‘make-up’ for the choices of people who share a gender-skintone-orientation with me. Humans are pretty much crap. But-- while we’re at it… I am literally paying, with food, for you to answer my questions… not challenge who I am or my motives. Can we begin?”
“Dude. Why you so bent out of shape, just questions. Fine. As long as you use gender neutral, non-derogatory and cruelty-free pronouns, I won’t be upset. And as far as questions, I’m good with most as long as they are free of bias and stereotype.” They shrugged.
“What about the fact that you represent a race of Holy individuals that are literally farmed for their ability to feed stronger heroes, is that too offensive?” I asked, with a glint of mischief in my eye.
“Nah that is what it is. And watch what you call Holy, bub… That’s a relative term. I read your interaction with Guinevere, so you pretty much know she is a bit on the shady side. Let’s just go with the comfortable morality-neutral term ‘Yellow Uniforms’, to talk about the real issues without all the politics.” They nodded, self-assuredly.
“Oookay. So this’ll be fun.” I said, admittedly frustrated by the increased complexity with which I had to conduct this interview for a stupid 1* HOLY piece of food. Tudan was way easier, for the record. “So, Hikaru, if you had one message to give to my readers, what would it be?” I asked, pleased with my softball question.
“Hm. Advocate for those of us who don’t get to eat. We are starving constantly, it’s so bad that we don’t even eat each other because there isn’t enough meat. Our digestive tracts can’t handle the bones and organs the same way stronger heroes can, so we pretty much waste away until we’re loaded into an camp where we wait to be tossed into the grinder to feed the more fortunate. I miss the tournaments, where we finally got to see a greater purpose and reward. For a time, even I had the glory of improved talents. I was sad when they ended, but it devastated millions of other people.” They responded, affirming the question with a nod.
Hikaru interrupted. “I’m not saying to bring them back, though. I miss the tournaments because of selfish desire to have fun. But all it did was pit us against each other and cause divide between those with, and those without… all for sport. If we’re cattle, we’re cattle… don’t play with your food, feel me?”
“But I don’t ea–”
They interrupted again. “I know you asked for one message, but I’m not done. This is a rhetorical question… Can you think of one example in your life where playing with your food is anything less than cruel to the food? No. I mean, I get the impression that people like you are just bored enough with life that you get involved in pointless debates over what picture does what, as a greedy corporation siphons money from your tap-happy fingers. So, sure, I could see why you’d want more value for your time. Why not do what you want to do, forgetting (if only for a moment) that the almighty Petri IS Derric the Dark Lord. Guardian Owl warned us all that we were making him more powerful… he even warned you. But no. What did you idiot humans do? You bought into the scheme… and now the Dark Lord will enter the meta, further increasing the profits of the greedy corporation and rendering millions of previously-heralded Epic and Legendary heroes as little more than food… at BEST, poor Horghall and Domitia will slip into torpor and die of boredom from a lack of paying contracts. At worst? They’ll be fed into the so-called hero “academy,” which is merely a Frankenstein-esque lab where they throw heroes into a blender, randomize the genetics, then feed them into molds like pink-goopy processed chicken nuggets. The process is so under-developed that they can’t even predict what will come up. So… yeah… I’ve got one message. Stop the madness, do something else with your life.” They sighed, burped, farted and motioned for another beer from the waiter.
“You said a lot there. So where does Hikaru go from here?” I asked, not really invested in the interview any longer.
“Well, for starters, I’d kind-of like to make this a weekly thing. I have lots to say on a variety of topics.” They offered.
“No, no… I have to be fair and only give one interview per hero.” I gently declined.
“Well, what if I were to… umm… make it worth your while.” They winked suggestively.
“I’ve auuhh… already got someone, thanks for the offer.” I smiled, weakly.
“No one has to know…” They shrugged.
“Consent is a two-way street, right? No means no.” I grinned.
Hikaru shrugged, rolled their eyes, slammed back the beer, burped again and then left the table without another word.
I could not resist
So a haiku I will write
Hikaru is food